I recently sat in on a sexual assault and healthy relationship discussion for first-year students, in which a peer of mine assumed that no one in the room had directly or indirectly been affected by sexual or relationship violence. I was so incredibly offended by his comment, knowing that multiple girls in the room at the time came from households that had experienced domestic abuse. It made me further think about the many girls I know my age who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused. Violence against women is a serious problem in the United States and it is striking to me that college-aged boys seem to have no clue how often it actually occurs.
Over 4 million women experience intimate violence by a partner every year in the US, and over 38 million American women have experienced intimate violence by a partner in their lifetimes. This shows that relationship violence is much more common in America than many think. These numbers don't even take into account those women who live through emotional abuse by their intimate partner. Many of these women suffer in silence and don't even recognize themselves that they are being abused day in and day out.
We've become so accustomed to a dark and extreme picture of domestic abuse that many people fail to recognize the many forms and degrees it can occur in. So many homes experience domestic abuse without those around them knowing and so people think they have never encountered the issue when really it could be happening to those closest to them. My peer clearly failed to believe that his friends and people he knew relatively well could have experience with these issues, while in reality multiple students sitting in the room with him had been personally impacted by relationship abuse.
Many people also don't realize how severe domestic abuse can become and the grave effects it is having on the female population in the US. In fact, three women are murdered in the U.S. every day by a former or current male partner. That is a massive amount of women dying every week, month and year at the hands of their significant others. The violence committed against women is unbelievable, and yet people continue to ignore how pervasive of an issue it really is.
One in five American women will be raped in their lifetimes, with one in three experiencing some form of contact sexual violence. This is especially an issue on college campuses, where 25% of women are raped during their time in college. Furthermore, rape is the most under-reported crime, making these numbers probably far less than the reality. As we saw with "me too", so many women experience sexual assault and harassment without telling their stories.
We cannot begin to fix a problem until we recognize to what degree it exists, and violence against women has far to go before it is seen as the pervasive problem it truly is and is eventually solved. My experience was just one of many with the failure to recognize how common relationship violence is in the US. The American public needs to be educated and understand that those around them have likely either directly or indirectly be impacted by violence against women.