Domestic Violence: Are We Finally Talking About It?

BlogHer Original Post

A few weeks ago, there was a disturbing story in the news about celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who had been photographed in a London restaurant having an argument with her husband Charles Saatchi. In a photo that was widely distributed across the web, he was observed putting his hand around Nigella's throat. This sparked a huge conversation online, including a post on BlogHer (5 Things I Want to Tell Nigella), which to date has generated nearly 100 comments.

domestic violence word cloud

BlogHer research wanted to understand more about domestic violence, so we turned to the Visionaries panel to ask a few questions on the topic. Almost 700 women gave us some insightful and passionate responses.

Most Agree That This Was Clearly Abuse

Nearly three quarters of the sample (73%) agreed that what happened to Nigella Lawson was abusive, with 26% saying they weren't sure because they didn't have enough information. However virtually everyone agrees that domestic violence doesn't have to be physical to be considered abuse. Of the total sample, 97% said that yelling, insults or verbal attacks count as abuse. However, women still consider physical abuse a bigger concern than emotional abuse, by a slight margin.

The Domestic Violence Resource Center says that 1 in 4 women will be abused in their lifetime. When we asked the Visionaries if they believed this statistic, an overwhelming 93% said yes.

Domestic Violence Takes Many Forms

We submitted a list of behaviors that could be considered a form of domestic violence. The only points that did not score high were jealousy (27%) or reading a partner's texts (36%). Tracking on social media was on the border (53%). It should be noted that even these three actions have the potential to become abusive if they progress to controlling behaviors, and may serve as an early warning sign.

It's Not Just The "Other" Person

One of the most revealing stats to come out of this study was how extremely common domestic violence is. It's not just the folks down the street or the celebrity in the news. A full 82% of the respondents said they have known someone personally who has been or currently is in an abusive relationship. And nearly half the women in this study (46%) admitted that they, too, had previously been in an abusive relationship as well. Apparently it starts young, with 59% of the respondents saying they think abusive behavior occurs frequently among teenagers.

"Have you ever been in an abusive relationship?"

have you ever been in an abusive relationship

Why Don't We Talk About It?

In spite of all the chatter happening online since the Nigella Lawson story, many don't perceive the topic of domestic violence to be something that's easy for women to bring up. We asked the Visionaries why they think this reluctance to bring it into the open is still true. Most (55%) said it's because domestic violence is a topic that makes people feel terribly uncomfortable. Another 18% thought it was because it's "something that happens to the other person (but not to me)."

domestic violence other

The Visionaries Talk About The Nigella Lawson Photo

Almost 700 women told us in great detail that they thought the photo of Nigella with her husband's hand to her throat was appalling. Words most commonly used in their responses were: Public, Abuse, Hand, Fear, Scared and Throat. Here are just a few of the many thoughts generated by the Visionaries on this topic.

"Usually domestic violence is kept under wraps. This time we got a very visible public view of the face of DV and it is brutal and terrifying."

"This is an open threat of violence in a public manner. The actions are usually far worse in a private setting."

"You imagine that confident, successful people do not get into situations like this."

"She's someone that everyone knows. It makes it strangely personal for everyone."

As the map below indicates, the Visionaries who participated in this survey were geographically dispersed in every area of the U.S., with the highest concentrations in the north and southeast, Chicago area, California, Texas and Washington.

domestic violence Visionaries heatmap

How often do you think or talk about domestic violence? What can bring domestic violence to an end? Will this latest incident make a difference in moving society from talk to action to end it?

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