Domestic Violence

Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten by a significant other or family member. Acts of domestic violence occur about 4.7 million times every year. Men and women don’t just fall under the lashing hands of others, but also emotional punches and mental slaps. Being a part of domestic violence in any form, victim or pursuer, can be costly. Although there are resources out there, it tends to not be used by teenagers due to the fear of a family member finding out.

Fights in freshman Montana Johnson’s [her name has been changed for privacy reasons] family tend to start over school issues and she finds them almost impossible to forget. She remembers one of the first times her dad hurt her.

¨We were looking at my grades and I was going to type in my password, but he wouldn’t let me. So I walked to my room because I didn’t want to get angry and do something I might regret later,¨ Johnson said. ¨He then came storming into my room and grabbed me and pulled me across the house by my hair and screamed and hit me. It was just a mess.¨

Johnson feels her father´s behavior is a normal outlash and no one notices how wrong it is but her.

¨I didn’t go to school one day because he slapped me across the face. My mom would always say I shouldn’t have been angry with him or defy what he said,¨ Johnson said. ¨I would always think he shouldn’t have hit me no matter what I say.¨

Seventy percent of all domestic violence cases remain unreported to the police, but there are other ways to seek help than the authorities. Johnson feels professional help might make things worse, but getting her mother´s support would likely provide comfort.

¨Maybe she could have stood up for me. I really don’t know any other way so I’m not sure what else she could have done to make things better,¨ Johnson said.

Johnson has a specific meaning of what domestic violence means to her due to her own experiences.

¨People assume the word ‘relationship’ only means and includes boyfriend and girlfriend. But it’s not just that,¨ Johnson said. ¨It includes friendships and family members that are physically or emotionally being assaulted. It happens with people who are close and trust each other.¨

Johnson hasn’t seen a lot of awareness despite the demographics stating one in four women are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. She feels strongly about the need to talk about cases that aren’t necessarily pretty.

¨You never really hear about domestic violence. Most people, especially public figures, like to avoid the topic. It´s one of those things that’s seen as if you don’t touch it or talk about it, it will eventually go away. But that’s just not how it works,¨ Johnson said. ¨You have to touch it and grab it to bring it into the spotlight. It can be very messy, but it needs to be done.¨

It can be hard to imagine someone who is trained to help students through their  difficulties being a victim of domestic violence. Guidance counselor Kathryn Moynihan has been in some of the familiar spots a lot of teens find themselves in during high school.

“I have experienced domestic violence,” Moynihan said. “I was in high school and had a boyfriend who got mad at me a lot. He would always hit me because he was angry.”

Moynihan´s motivation to become a school counselor was so she can provide help to those who might never have the opportunity to seek help otherwise.

¨I tried to reach out for help by going and talking to my parents and friends because I didn’t have a school counselor,¨ Moynihan said. ¨I unfortunately have had students come to me about domestic violence too many times and they are very similar to what I experienced.¨

Moynihan has a certain protocol she has to follow when a student informs her about their situation.

¨The protocol is different depending on their age. If they are under 17, I have to call their parents to inform them about it,¨ Moynihan said. ¨If they are 17 or older I try to counsel them as much as I can and encourage them to get out of the situation but typically I try to inform the parents whenever I can.¨

School counselors see several cases of domestic violence and each one has their own personal definition of what it is to them.

¨Domestic violence is anytime you are in a relationship with any type of violence that makes you feel unsafe,¨ Moynihan said.

Moynihan wants to reach out to any student who feels like a victim of domestic violence or simply needs someone to talk to.

¨ It’s never okay for someone to make you feel unsafe in a relationship. It’s not okay for someone to have to handle violence on their own. It’s not normal. There is always somebody to talk to. All the counselors are here for anyone who needs to talk or wants to seek help,¨ Moynihan said.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to seek help.