Two weeks ago, I heard the heart-wrenching news that one of my former high school classmates had been shot and killed inside her Colorado home. Molly Nickal was just 35 years old. She left behind three beautiful children, the youngest a 3-month-old baby boy. Her husband, Gary Nickal, has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.
As I read the news articles chronicling her tragic demise, it was very clear that this beautiful woman was a victim of domestic violence. According to an article in the Mankato Free Press, Molly’s family had been afraid for her because her husband was controlling, violent, and had isolated her from the rest of the family. Molly had even told one of her sisters that she felt like a prisoner in her own home.
As disturbing as this story is, it isn’t as uncommon as you may think. Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States and around the world. To give some perspective, it has been reported that 3 people die every day in the United States as a direct result of domestic violence. That’s a whopping 1095 people per year! Some advocacy groups argue that when you consider the staggering rates of suicide that are linked with abuse, the numbers are actually much higher.
While this is a startling fact, it doesn’t even come close to the amount of people who are injured on a daily basis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, On average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 10 million women and men.
Of course domestic violence doesn’t just affect adults. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. Whether they are actually abused themselves, or simply witnessing abuse within their home, children are profoundly impacted by this issue. Click here for more information about the impact of domestic violence on children
Domestic violence and abuse can seem like an overwhelming and impossible problem to tackle. However, there are things that every person can do to make a difference.
Whether you believe that you are in an abusive relationship or not, it is important to know what domestic violence is. There is power in knowledge. Taking a few minutes to learn the facts might help someone you care about get the assistance they need. Who knows, you might even save someone’s life!
Domestic violence and abuse can affect anyone regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, religion, income level, education, etc.
According to the United States Department of Justice, “domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
For more detailed information about the specific characteristics of physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse, visit the United States Department of Justice website.
Know The Warning Signs
Unfortunately, in the early stages of a relationship, it isn’t always easy to tell if a person is abusive. In fact, abusers can come across as very engaging and charming at first. However, over time, a pattern of controlling and manipulative behavior typically develops. The classic sign of abuse is when one person in the relationship is consistently trying to dominate and control the other person.
Another obvious sign of abuse is fear. If a person is constantly afraid of upsetting their partner and feels the need to adjust their words or behavior in order to avoid a confrontation, then chances are it’s an unhealthy and potentially abusive relationship.
There are many other signs including a partner who is constantly belittling or critiquing the other. Feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, depression, and desperation are also common. For more detailed information about the warning signs of abuse visit helpguide.org and the National Domestic Violence Helpline.
A simple way to make a difference in the fight against domestic violence is to help raise awareness. Talk about the issue with friends, family, and colleagues. Post articles on your social media platforms that provide information about abuse and about the advocacy organizations that are assisting victims and their families.
Take the time to learn about the domestic violence resources and shelters that exist within your community. Consider volunteering or donating to their cause. Check to see if your employer or faith community has any domestic violence resources or programs in place. If not, ask if they would consider starting one or hosting an event to bring awareness to the issue. Click here for information about domestic violence training resources.
Finally, if there is a person in your life that you suspect is being abused, make an effort to reach out to them. It’s best to try to talk to them privately, and in person. Let them know why you are concerned, and that you are there to help. No matter what happens, be sure to support them and their decisions. Click here for more detailed information about the do’s and don’ts of reaching out.
Domestic violence is a pervasive and distressing problem in our society. It is something that will not disappear overnight. However, we can make a difference. We can each do our part to help bring awareness and offer support to the people who need it most.
I don’t ever want to read another article about a person that I know dying at the hands of an abuser. I won’t stay silent about this issue anymore. How about you?!
If you would like to donate to the memorial fund set up to help Molly Nickal’s children click here