Ah, October.  Leaves turning color, porches decorated with jack o’lanterns and skeletons, Major League Baseball post-season.  And something else.  Awareness.

No, not of the pink stuff.

Purple is the color I have in mind.  Purple, the color of domestic violence awareness.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It gets a bit overshadowed by that pink stuff, however.

Domestic violence has been in the news lately, as I’m sure you’re aware.  (see what I did there?)   The NFL has a domestic violence problem, and its problem isn’t just Ray Rice.  Turns out, Major League Baseball‘s got a problem too.  Even women’s soccer isn’t immune.  It’s a pervasive problem in our culture.

And it’s a problem in which women are disproportionately victimized.  The Department of Justice tells us that approximately 80% of victims of intimate-partner violence (spouse/domestic partner or boyfriend/girlfriend) are women.  The DOJ also tells us that most domestic violence against females is committed by the victim’s current or former spouse/domestic partner/boyfriend/girlfriend.

Sadly, women die from domestic violence.  No, it’s not the second leading cause of death among women under age 50.  But women do die.  We are told that 12oo to 1300 women die each year – three women every day – at the hands of their intimate partners.

Too many?  Yep.

Even one is too many.

I bet you can guess where I’m going with this.

“If it would save even one life…”

The usual suspects, of course, want us to know that the majority of these women who die from intimate partner violence are killed by firearms.  The usual suspects want us to know that two-thirds of women killed by firearms were killed by their intimate partners.  The usual suspects want us to know – complete with Facebook-friendly infographic – that the presence of a gun makes it five times more likely that domestic violence will turn into murder!

Oh my.  Little did I know that my Remington 870 had such power over the human mind.  Or that my Glock 26 is running around killing people by itself.  (Bad Glock!  Bad!)

The usual suspects, however, are neglecting to tell us a couple things.

First, they’re not telling us that most domestic violence doesn’t involve a weapon (unless you count body parts as weapons), and even when a weapon is involved, knives are used more often than firearms.  77% of domestic violence doesn’t involve a weapon other than hands and feet.  Of the 20% that does involve a weapon, knives are used more than twice as often as guns, and “other” weapons are used nearly twice as often as guns.  (In 3% of cases, the victim didn’t report whether a weapon was used or not; that’s why it doesn’t add up to 100%.)   Furthermore, family violence is actually less likely to involve a weapon than nonfamily violence, particularly stranger violence.

Second, they’re not telling us the good news about domestic violence.  Yes, there is good news.

The good news is that domestic violence has dropped precipitously since 1994, when the Violence Against Women Act was enacted.  The Department of Justice tells us that from 1994 to 2012, violence committed by intimate partners declined at a faster rate than violent crime committed by immediate family members and other relatives. Serious domestic violence – sexual crime, robbery, and aggravated assault – plummeted dramatically.  So did homicide.  Homicide of women by intimate partners dropped 35%, while homicide of men by intimate partners dropped even more – by 46%.

The good news isn’t enough, of course.  We need to work to reduce domestic violence even further.  But the usual suspects’ screeching isn’t the answer; as recent news events have shown, an abuser doesn’t need anything more than his fists to inflict serious injury on his victim.

Let’s remember that the biggest weapon possessed by humans is the brain.

Let’s work to change hearts and minds this month.  And let’s not stop changing hearts and minds when the World Series is over and the calendar turns to November.


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