By Beth Flynn
Last Sunday, a 22-year-old man set his 19-year-old girlfriend on fire because she refused to give him car keys.
The couple has a 2-month-old child together and live with his mother. When the couple began to fight, the mother called the police. The man hit not only his girlfriend but also his mother.
Domestic violence is not an issue to be taken lightly. Many organizations are getting together to promote Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The Young Women’s Christian Association is an organization in Omaha and across the United States dedicated to helping those in abusive situations.
The YWCA defines domestic violence as: “a systematic pattern of abusive behaviors, whether psychological, sexual, physical and/or economic, used by an individual to establish power and control over his/her partner. The abuser is able to maintain power and control through the fear and intimidation of his/her partner.”
The organization sponsors the program Women Against Violence, which is designed to provide those in domestic violent or sexual assault relationships with services and resources.
These resources include a 24-hour hotline, age-specific education and prevention programs, an advocacy program where legal and medical support is offered and a counseling program, both individual and group, for all ages and both men and women.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone; there are no typical or average abusers. Domestic violence also does not apply to just one gender or race.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 95 percent of all victims are female and almost all the perpetrators are male.
Last year, the American Medical Association said one-fifth to one-third of all women will by assaulted physically by either a partner or ex-partner during their lifetime.
A study conducted by the YWCA indicated there are roughly 30,000 households in the Omaha Metro area where domestic violence is present. There are 3.3 million children who witness their fathers beat their mothers every year. The number one reason abused women fled to shelters was to protect their children.
The YWCA defines sexual assault as: “when a person forces another person to have sex or perform sexual act, through coercion, threats, physical restraint or physical violence.” By the age of 18, one out of every three girls and one out of every five boys will have been a victim of sexual assault.
Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study that noted about 20 percent of high school girls have reported being either physically and/or sexually abused by a partner. This can result in increases of substance abuse, unhealthy weight gain, sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy, diseases and suicide.
Abuse goes beyond the physical element. It can also be mental abuse, which includes verbal abuse. Abusers threatening to harm themselves or harm their partners is one form; making their partners feel insecure about themselves and thinking no one else will love them is another.
The YWCA can help victims by providing safety and security. They are currently having a cell phone drive to give old cell phones to abused women for emergencies.
For more information about the program, getting help or volunteering, visit http://www.ywcaomaha.org or call the 24-hour hotline at 345-7273 or the main line at 345-6555.