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One expert's observations about domestic violence

We cited in a recent blog post some takeaway points offered in an article written by a commentator who truly knows something about domestic abuse in the United States. Susan Paisner is a criminal law expert and ex-adviser to police agencies on crafting family abuse policies and investigating violence claims.

A central point from Paisner that we previously noted was the common misperception that domestic violence is overwhelmingly a problem confined to financially and educationally disadvantaged households and neighborhoods. As Paisner notes (and documents with wide-ranging evidence), abuse occurs "with no regard for age, ethnicity, financial status or educational background."

Paisner further seeks to debunk several other family violence-linked "myths," which are touched upon below.

One is this: Domestic abuse necessarily involves physical violence.

That is patently untrue. A victim can suffer mightily from verbal harassment, an abuser's constantly demeaning attitude, a mere threat to harm, isolation and many other behaviors.

Another widely held view that lacks merit is that things can't be too bad if a couple continues to stay together.

In fact, many victims fear that they will suffer serious harm or even death if they try to leave an abuser. Additionally, they might fear for children. It is often the case that they believe an abuser will reform. Reportedly, victims leave and return to a volatile household an average of seven times before they permanently exit.

Perhaps the biggest misconception of all is that men aren't -- in fact, can't be -- victims of domestic violence.

Indeed, they are, and often. Data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that about 14% of American men have been badly physically abused on one or multiple occasions by a partner (in both gay and heterosexual relationships).

At its core, notes Paisner, domestic violence "is a complicated and pervasive crime." More public education needs to be provided regarding the topic, with better reporting channels being implemented. Law enforcers need to be better trained to spot and respond to violence. And victims need to become progressively empowered to deal with behavior that threatens them and, often, their loved ones.

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