If there were one place a person expects to be protected and made to feel safe, it would be in the home space, yet every day news reports tell a different story. It is a story of violence and abuse in family and intimate partner relationships. The story is ugly, frightening, and in some cases implausible. And while the reasons for violence may vary and are even debatable, the issues of domestic violence remain a growing social and moral problem in our backyard as well as around the world. The textbook, Understanding Social Problems, states, “In U.S. society, people are more likely to be physically assaulted, abused and neglected, sexually assaulted and molested, or killed in their own homes rather than anywhere else, and by other family members rather than by anyone else” (Mooney, et al., 159). However, most Americans take care and pride in making the family a priority, and safeguarding and defending the family unit and its values. But several conditions including personal, social, and economic factors have contributed to domestic violence in communities globally, and Brevard county, though a relatively small community is no exception.
According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were 4,064 reported cases of domestic violence offenses in Brevard County in 2011 alone. Compare with 7,140 between 1998 and 2002. But according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics on family violence, between 1998 and 2002 about 3.5 million violent crimes were committed nationwide against family members, 49% were crimes against spouses and 11% of which were children victimized by a parent. But a 2009 article in Florida Today “Opinion Matters” suggests that statistics shows only a small portion of the horrific picture because these crimes are often “crimes of silence.” The article also claims that at lease 4 out of 10 domestic violence incidents are not reported. This is disturbing because silence only serves to protect perpetrators and disarm victims. Many women do not come forward because of fear, embarrassment, financial dependency and other social issues. What is even more troubling is Florida Today’s assertion that each day at least three women in the United States alone will be murdered by an intimate partner and that domestic violence affects 32 million Americans annually.
The Domestic Violence Victim Services Guide, created by the Women’s Center with funding from Health First states that “Abuse can happen to anybody and it does. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, where you live, or whether you are educated. It happens regardless of age, race, culture, or whatever your region happens to be.” Domestic violence is a real threat especially to women and children and it is a growing problem in Brevard County communities. But it is worth noting that many abused victims as well as the abusers are continuing a cycle of abuse. This is because their self-esteem has been beaten down for so long that they have come to believe they are either causing the abuse, or they deserve it.
However, there are several organizations in Brevard County dedicated to responding to domestic violence and working towards prevention. One of which is The Women’s Center. Located at 1425 Aurora Road in Melbourne, Florida, the Women’s Center is committed to addressing the needs of women and empowering them to lead, safe, healthy and self-sufficient lives. Stating that domestic violence and sexual abuse occurs daily in Brevard County, the non-profit organization speaks to the basic needs of these women by providing them with a wide range of programs and services including: transitional housing, victim advocacy, counseling services, career guidance, job training, and financial assistance. Budgeting workshops, reimbursement for transportation, medical expenses and healthcare are also provided for homeless women and their children. Annually, the center helps over 10,000 women and their families escape a dangerous environment.
The Brevard Chapter of The National Organization for Women (NOW) is also on a mission to break the silence around domestic violence and abuse. During October, the National Domestic Violence Awareness month, Brevard NOW host “Take Back The Night” in Melbourne. The purpose of the event is to promote a community wide effort to end domestic violence and to let victims know that they are not alone. The chairperson, Paccione asserts, “Our [NOW] vision is to empower women and their families by providing a venue which brings together all the resources available in our community. Our goal is for all those affected by domestic violence to rise up and say victim no more!” Still, although there are many national and local resources to help with prevention and repeat occurrences, ending family violence will no doubt be an uphill battle because of the various reasons adult victims stay in abusive relationships.
In conclusion, the problem of domestic violence in Brevard County communities is one that affects all its citizens because it affects all race, religion, culture, class, gender and age. Victims of abuse are hiding in plain sight. They are our friends and neighbors, our coworkers and classmates, our church sisters and brothers. We marry them or into the family, and only by breaking the silence and reducing the stigma can society hope to significantly reduce the problem. For any society to be healthy, its citizens must be physically and mentally healthy. Brevard County cannot afford to turn its head in the other direction and walk by. We must give voice to the voiceless in the battle against domestic violence. We must teach each other that corporation is necessary, compassion is key, and information is power.