Women bear brunt of domestic violence

Cara Zajac, Contributing Writer

The following is an opinion piece, and does not reflect the views of the Tulane Hullabaloo.

The murder of second-year law student Sara LaMont, who was killed by her boyfriend, has hit our community incredibly hard. The large number of student deaths this year has created needed mental health conversations, but this one requires a very different type of dialogue. LaMont’s tragic death was a result of a lethal domestic violence situation, and our community needs to address this.

In Louisiana, intimate partner violence is a major problem. The state consistently ranks among the top 10 states for most homicides related to domestic abuse. In New Orleans, more than 2,000 people were arrested or had warrants out for their arrest concerning charges of domestic violence. Nationwide, three women are murdered every day by a current or former male partner. 

Unfortunately, the tragedy we have been dealt as a community is something that happens every day, more than once. Every day three families are being told that their daughter, sister or mother is dead. Being silent about these issues is no longer an option.

A major problem in domestically violent situations is that women are made to feel helpless and powerless in their own abuse. Through constant emotional manipulation, threats, intimidation and violence, the men who abuse women take away all sense of personal freedom and agency. As a former crisis line operator, I heard countless tales of women who felt trapped or dependent on their abusive partners, so much so that leaving seems like an impossible answer to the horrific nightmare they were living in every day.

While, ideally, the answer would be to help empower and support every woman who has survived or is living in an abusive relationship, this answer is not always attainable in reality. What we can do as the Tulane community is pay attention to and talk about how to identify, prevent and intervene in situations that can lead to intimate partner violence.

Women are the primary victims in most cases of domestic and partner violence. According to a 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, women are the victims of 85 percent of domestically violent events and situations in the United States. 

From the outside, many domestically violent relationships look like normal, healthy relationships. Just because you can’t see something does not mean it does not happen.

When a survivor has the courage to speak up and ask for help, we need to listen. We cannot tell them that they are lying, we cannot say they are doing it for attention and we cannot devalue their experiences as “probably not that bad.” If the survivor has been able to gather the strength to ask for help, they need our full and unconditional support. If you notice abusive or manipulative behavior in a friend’s relationship, speak up.

To people in violent relationships, sometimes the abuse starts to feel like a normal relationship, and they may not realize that the behavior they endure is unhealthy and toxic. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to them directly, contact Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline & Education, Student Affairs or even your Resident Advisor, and a trained professional will respond.

Male students also need to hold one another accountable and not allow their peers to abuse and mistreat their female colleagues.

While we heal from this tragic murder, we need to stand up together and say that we refuse to allow domestic violence to occur. We will not be silent about violence against women, and we will hold male perpetrators responsible for their actions. We will actively engage in creating a community that supports survivors. We will begin to recover. We will be stronger.

Tulane Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline & Education: 504.654.9543

Metropolitan Center for Women and Children24 hour crisis response line: 504-837-5400 (All services are free and confidential)

Stalking Resource Center: http://www.victimsofcrime.org/src

National Network to End Domestic Violence http://nnedv.org/

Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault www.lafasa.org/

Cara Zajac is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at c[email protected]