Rozner: A wish for those suffering domestic violence

It is the most wonderful time of the year.

These are the days of a warm fireplace, a quiet snowfall and a pile of presents.

It is a time for faith and family.

Unless you are in a home where there is domestic violence.

For the victims, the cruel irony is that Christmas will be the worst day of the year.

Yeah, it's those two words again. Domestic violence. Some are tired of hearing about it, and those who are have obviously never been shaken by it.

It was the talk of the NFL a few months ago, with so many stories written, so many conversations taking place on radio, TV and in millions of American homes.

And it has gone away with the same speed at which it arrived. It's a fine topic of outrage when there is news, and it is a distant memory for those unaffected on a day of so much happiness.

For victims, the fear is ever-present, the intimidation unending, the nerves devastated and the beatings inescapable.

"Domestic violence happens more frequently when there's economic stress, and if your ability to provide is compromised, there's a lot more stress at a time during the holidays when there are already so many triggers," says University of Maryland law professor Leigh Goodmark, who directs the Gender Violence Clinic and is also the 2013 author of "A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System." "There are such high expectations this time of year, especially for kids.

"This is supposed to be a time of family harmony. For many, it's a time of increased family violence, and then those kids grow up with the memories and they're likely to repeat what they have lived and learned if they don't get help."

According to, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation.

Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at rates of about 50 percent, and children exposed to domestic violence at home are at high risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease or gastrointestinal disorders.

And without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults.

"We should be talking about it every day until it ends," says Goodmark, who spends each and every day doing precisely that. "Until we change the way we look at relationships and violence, this will continue and be a stain on our country. Until young men are taught that it's unacceptable, the cycle will continue."

The Department of Justice estimates that three million women will be physically abused in the U.S. this year. On average, three women are murdered by husbands or boyfriends every day. And homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women.

About 8,300 women will be abused by their partners today, and in the time it takes you to finish reading this, 57 more women will endure a beating. Some of those women - along with their children - will celebrate Christmas in a shelter, on the street, in a hospital or a morgue.

The rest will stay and hope to live through it.

"In some ways, it would be much more helpful to have the conversation outside the context of Ray Rice, outside the context of the NFL," Goodmark explained. "It would be helpful for it to not be seen as exceptional, to not be tied to an exceptional event, to understand that this occurs thousands of times every day outside the view of the media."

Outside that lens, one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. It's most likely to take place between sunset and sunrise, and more than 60 percent of domestic violence incidents happen at home.

It's the third-leading cause of homelessness among families, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims, and one of every three homicide victims is murdered by her current or former partner every year.

This was big news when there was a Ray Rice video going viral, but the media has moved on - until the next big scandal.

"There have been changes to the player policy and that's good, but what about the lack of accountability for the NFL itself?" Goodmark asks. "Roger Goodell is Teflon, and though they've made some good changes and donated to some good causes, and that's important, there's no evidence of a concrete change at the player level, where players internally hold other players accountable.

"The NFL is all about a culture of violence, with men capable of doing incredible damage. It's what they're paid to do, but what has the NFL done to train them to be nonviolent off the field? I don't see that culture changing at all."

The same could be said of millions of American households.

"Is it acceptable that we stop talking about it, or should it be at the forefront of our attention?" Goodmark said. "It's a national crisis that brings knee-jerk reactions to big stories and little engagement on the actual problem.

"We need to change the culture and make it unacceptable, but the system is unwilling to examine the reasons behind it, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that many people still don't believe it's pervasive."

And no less so on a day that is supposed to be so warm and happy.

"Christmas will be another day when women are hurt and children are terrified," Goodmark said. "It will leave women and children homeless, and they will leave the men who have done it.

"Kids will be asking where their fathers are, why they can't see them on Christmas, and dads will be deported for convictions of domestic violence.

"Millions of people will experience domestic violence or will be thinking about it on Christmas. That's the sad truth. I can only wish it weren't so."

So on this day that is so wonderful, let us think of those who are suffering - and remember to stick up for those who can't stick up for themselves.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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