June 7, 2019
Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States yet its rarely discussed. Fifty women a month are shot and killed by their partners. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness. And 80 percent of hostage situations involve an abusive partner. Nor is it only a question of physical harm: In some 20 percent of abusive relationships a perpetrator has total control of his victim’s life. (Countries including Britain and France have laws to protect against this kind of abuse, but the United States does not.) This shouldn’t surprise us. For most of our history, domestic violence has been considered a private matter. The first law to protect victims of domestic abuse passed Congress only in 1984. And it would take a dozen more years before the first national hotline for victims was established. (One outcome of the #MeToo movement may be a greater willingness to report domestic violence: In 2018, calls to the national domestic violence hotline reportedly went up 30 percent.) As recently as the 1990s, there were three times as many shelters for abused pets as there were for abused partners.