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Working together, we can defeat domestic violence


Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, and studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is physically and emotionally abusive behavior used by one person in a relationship to control the other. The abuse comes in many forms: physical, sexual, stalking, emotional, psychological, religious and financial. The goal is to accomplish one thing: to control the victim by eroding their self-esteem from the inside out. Plain and simple.

In the early stages of an abusive relationship, the abuser is charming, giving, emotionally engaging and even encouraging and involved. Then the abuse starts to creep into the relationship — name-calling, subtle physical contact, relentless phone calls and on-going questioning and interrogation.

Still, the victim recalls the incredible good person they first met and believes the good far outweighs the minor bad behavior. A triggering stress occurs. The blame starts and the physical abuse becomes increasing violent.

Eventually, an abusive event is so severe that for the first time, perhaps law enforcement is called. The victim still does not recognize the severity of her situation. The weaknesses her abusive partner has either created, or has brought to the surface, cause her to challenge and accept the reality of what’s happening. She clings to the desires to keep her family intact, pretend nothing is wrong, and likely has little financial resources available. Her abuser tells her that he is changed, it was a mistake, and he’ll never do it again.

This cycle repeats itself with emotional, mental or physical abuse potentially increasing with each incident.

Why doesn’t she just leave? By this time, she has very little self-esteem remaining. She’s likely been cut off from most friends and family, and continues to turn the blame inward. She’s alone, afraid, vulnerable and full of self-doubt. “If only she didn’t burn dinner. If only she kept her kids quiet. If only she worked more overtime.”

If only, if only.

Further, leaving the abuser can be the most dangerous part of the cycle — it enrages the abuser because he is losing control of her. For the abuser, it has become a game of manipulation

. Let’s talk more numbers. Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the United States alone — the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. This is a productivity loss of $1.8 billion, with another $4.1 billion spent on related medical and health-care services.

As a survivor of domestic violence this issue is extremely important to me. I have championed many pieces of legislation in the Oregon Legislature to protect victims and children of domestic violence and recently was appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to the Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Task Force.

Domestic violence is an isolating, silent crime that cannot be defeated alone. But there is a way out. Call 1-888-235-533 if you need help. Let’s stop domestic violence one child at a time, one family at a time, and one generation at a time.

State Rep. Katie Eyre, a Republican, represents Oregon House District 29, which includes central and western Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove.