By James M. Decker
One in three women in America have experienced domestic violence during their lifetime. One in four men have experienced domestic violence. I heard these shocking statistics this past Sunday in a presentation at church from Dan Cox, executive director of the Noah Project in Abilene, Texas.
The Noah Project’s mission is “empowering victims to become survivors, and working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.” Based in Abilene, the Noah Project provides shelter, food and clothing, emergency protective care, and various counseling, planning, and advocacy services to victims of family and domestic violence in ten counties around Abilene.
The Noah Project is a truly wonderful organization, standing in the gap for some of the most vulnerable among us. The work they do and the situations they encounter are truly stunning. The one-in-three/one-in-four statistic mentioned above was staggering to me, learning that fully 33% of American women and 25% of American men have been (or will be) victims of domestic violence. I was surprised to learn that statistic holds essentially true throughout American society, no matter the demographic and in every community.
I walked away educated, but heartsick. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon. Domestic violence victims lose a total of 8 million paid days of work each year. Between 20% and 60% of domestic violence victims lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from their abuse. Domestic violence victims experience a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
Simply put, domestic violence is sapping America’s physical, mental, and economic health. Look around you at work, at the store, at church. 1/3 of the women you see and 1/4 of the men you see are victims of domestic violence. Imagine the toll that it takes all day, every day, on each of those people, their other loved ones, their other relationships, and their jobs.
In Proverbs 31:8-9, King “Lemuel” (actual identity unknown, but believed to be Solomon) admonishes us:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
It’s easy to pass off domestic violence as a law enforcement matter. In most cases, those actions DO break the law. But as I’ve said many times before, law enforcement is a reactive tool, to be used after something has already occurred. It is incumbent on our community leaders to be proactive BEFORE law enforcement is needed.
How do we create a culture in our communities such that domestic violence is not an outlet for our people? And if they are so inclined, how do we establish a culture that does not tolerate domestic violence?
Like many of the other issues I raise in my essays, I am not sure I have a good answer yet. But I do know that people like you and me must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must defend those in need. Psalms 31:8-9 has a lot of applicability throughout our communities, but domestic violence is surely at or near the top of that list. We must lead by example, support those like the Noah Project who are the hands and feet of God, and show the world that for our people in our communities, we will be the voice and the defenders of those in need.
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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at facebook.com/james.decker. Listen to our podcast interview with James here.