RONZONE: Domestic abuse and the economy



Raquel Ronzone

Look no further than recent newspaper headlines and the articles that follow them to realize the scope of the economic crisis in the United States. The depth of this fiscal catastrophe, however, remains carelessly ignored.

Journalists, financial analysts and consumers alike have reduced the situation to mere quantitative factors, and the statistics appear to take precedence over the severe, far-reaching implications. Many, for instance, fail to mention the startling increase of incidences of domestic abuse in the wake of a deteriorating market.

According to an Oct. 13 article in Hometown Annapolis, officials at Anne Arundel Medical Center believe that the economy is playing a direct role in the growing cases of abuse seen there. Published that same day, a story in USA Today grounded that speculation with national instances of personal repercussions: After losing his fortune, an unemployed money manager in California murdered his family and committed suicide; when a 90-year-old widow from Ohio faced eviction from her home of 38 years, she shot herself in the chest; a housewife in Massachusetts, who hid the family’s monetary problems from her spouse, wrote to their mortgage company, “By the time you foreclose on my house, I’ll be dead.”

The future of the economy is clearly the future of U.S. citizens; but, although the public is gradually becoming more aware of the market collapse, it remains largely oblivious to the prevalence of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is, by all means, ruthlessly egalitarian. It knows no age limit, no gender boundary and no sexual orientation. It knows no ethnic identity, no class distinction and certainly no socioeconomic stratum. Despite the staggering number of lives it devastates through daily interactions and in established relationships, it proves an insufferable yet seemingly inescapable reality for both married and intimately involved people.

The term spousal abuse, another name for domestic abuse, falsely implies that these destructive practices occur only between individuals bound together by matrimony. By definition, domestic abuse is the attempt of one romantic partner to dominate and control the other through humiliation, fear, guilt, shame, intimidation, isolation, threats, denial or blame.

It occurs as any combination of psychological, emotional, sexual, physical and financial manipulation at any stage of a relationship, meaning that it can and does happen to dating, engaged and cohabitating people, as well as wedded ones.

The figures concerning domestic abuse denote the stories of hundreds of thousands, even millions, by some estimates, of men and women who suffer at the hands of their malicious lovers. In 2000, the study, “Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” reported that approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. Eleven percent of lesbians reported violence by their female partner, and 15 percent of gay men who had lived with a male partner reported being victimized by a male partner, according to Patricia Tjaden’s 2003 “Symposium on Integrating Responses to Domestic Violence: Extent and Nature of Intimate Partner Violence as Measured by the National Violence against Women Survey.” A 1999 study, “Ending Violence Against Women,” found that, internationally, at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, and, usually, the abuser is a member of her own family. Revised in 2000, “Intimate Partner Violence,” published by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that domestic violence is most prevalent among women 16-24 years old.

The aforementioned data was collected before the bold-face headlines declared the financial collapse of the U.S. market. In such critical modern times, these figures – rather, the figures of which we newsreaders are aware – have increased exponentially. A complete portrait of domestic abuse is difficult to obtain; many cases of domestic abuse go unreported by the victims and therefore unnoticed by the public.

Now, with the fate of the United States resting squarely on a precarious economy, the inexorably linked issue of domestic abuse could enter into public consciousness again, reminding citizens that each graph and figure about the declining market carries with it a potentially abusive or fatal outcome in relationships.


Raquel Ronzone is a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected].