Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I represented a victim of domestic violence. The client was a 45-year-old single mother raising a 13-year-old daughter. She had been employed as a MARTA bus driver for over 15 years, made a good living, and was a loving mother. She was living with a man-friend who had been unemployed ever since the relationship began seven years earlier. He played video games in her apartment, while selling drugs, and spending the profits upon his own drug use. He watched over the clients daughter after school while the client worked overtime to support her daughter and man-friend.
I first met the client under highly adverse circumstances. She was a pro-bono client introduced to me through the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers' (AVLF) domestic violence clinic. Her man-friend had been arrested the night before, for beating her with his fists. She was terrified, he would bond out of jail and return to finish the beating. Police had been to her apartment on domestic violence charges on multiple prior occasions. He had been arrested several times before and had a past history of domestic violence. But she was even more terrified that he or one of his drug clients might molest, or even rape, her daughter. He had no money to bond out of jail and posed no immediate threat for several weeks. Nonetheless, we arranged for an emergency hearing before the Court to obtain a restraining order banning him from returning to her apartment.
On the morning of the hearing, I was sitting outside the court room and my cell phone began to ring. It was the client calling to tell me she had made up with her live-in man-friend. He had called her from jail, crying about the food and conditions of his cell. He apologized for beating her and swore on his mother’s grave it would never happen again! She explained that she felt guilty for having him arrested and for making him spend the past week in jail. She had invested seven years in the relationship and did not want to throw it away and return to finding a new man-friend. She was using her day-off to arrange to bond him out of jail and then prepare his favorite home-cooked meal. My services were no longer needed, and I could go back to my full-time job practicing construction law.
I returned to my office and was needless to say very frustrated. My frustration centered around the situation my client and her daughter continued to endure. How could she allow such a dead-beat man-friend to disrupt her life? More importantly, how could she protect her daughter from such a monster? I spoke to several people, did some extensive research and was astounded to discover that the situation facing my client was very, very common. So common that it was normal for domestic violence victims to take their abuser back, and even welcome them into their homes.
Here are some facts that I discovered and quite frankly find both chilling and unacceptable in the United States – a free and civilized society:
- On average, victims suffer domestic violence seven or more times before they seek a restraining order to stop the violence.
- Domestic violence in single parent homes is six times greater than two-parent families. [See, “Putting a Face Upon Single Mom's Battling Aggressive Cancers!”, posted 2/8/23].
- Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, equating to more than 10 million people per year.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
- On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
- The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
- Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
- Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
- 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.
- Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
- Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.
- Almost half of female (46.7%) and male (44.9%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these, 45.4% of female rape victims and 29% of male rape victims were raped by an intimate partner.
- 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.
- A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.
- 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.
- 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
I have spent the past 36 years practicing construction law - subject only to frequent forays into the pro-bono arena. I do not know how we got here as a nation, nor do I know how this problem can be fixed. However, I do know that unless more people understand the magnitude of domestic violence in our nation, nothing will ever change.
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