By Jonathan Samples | Managing Editor
“She became a victim of domestic violence – a thing she taught us all about.”
Those words came from Shaye Soto, a 2015 graduate of Plainfield North High School and former student of Susan Triplett-Cunningham, who was tragically murdered Oct. 20 in what police have called a “domestic-related homicide.”
Soto spoke during a candlelight vigil held at the school in memory of her former teacher. And while the details of her teacher’s death are not yet official, the incident underscores a sobering truth: domestic violence is closer to all of us than we’d like to admit and its victims are often discouraged from seeking help.
Police suspect that Cunningham’s husband fatally stabbed his wife before walking into traffic and taking his own life. This tragedy is all too real for the friends and family of the victim, yet its timing and impact provide an opportunity for all people to reflect on a problem that is all too common throughout our society.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The month is a time when people across the country unite to remember and empower victims, while raising awareness of the effects domestic violence has on families across the country. Officially, the month is centered around three themes: mourning those who have died, celebrating those who have survived and connecting those who are working to end domestic violence.
“During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we reaffirm our dedication to forging an America where no one suffers the hurt and hardship that domestic violence causes — and we recommit to doing everything in our power to uphold the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse,” President Obama said Sept. 30 in a proclamation commemorating National Domestic Violence Awareness.
In 1994, congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, symbolizing that dedication and bringing to light the pervasiveness of domestic violence in America. The act also set aside funds for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and allowed for civil redress in cases that go unprosecuted.
But sadly, the act has neither eradicated domestic violence from our culture nor convinced some that it is a serious problem — as demonstrated by the political fight to reauthorize the VAWA in 2013 because of its inclusion of American Indians, illegal immigrants and homosexuals.
Domestic violence and abuse affect all types of people and comes in many forms: verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual and physical. According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, and 1 in 5 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their life.
Men are also the victims of domestic violence, with 1 in 4 suffering physical violence and 1 in 7 suffering severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Additionally, 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner and 94 percent of those victims are female.
Despite these tragic statistics, our society has chosen to turn its head and ignore this troubling and inconvenient truth.
We do this by still praising athletes who have been convicted of rape or spousal abuse or by choosing to forget their crimes, as long as they continue to perform at a high level. We do this by ignoring signs of abuse at work or in other public settings, telling ourselves that it’s a “personal” matter and failing to listen to victim’s cries for help. We do this by perpetuating a culture of patriarchy that teaches suppression and subjugation of qualities deemed “feminine,” soliciting from some a violent reaction when the realities of the 21st century clash with social “norms” that have been reinforced from a young age.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month but domestic violence knows no boundaries. I choose to confront this ever-present problem by being aware of its existence. Will you?