The Numbers DO Add Up

by Michael G. Gabel

I'm no stranger to how horrific facts and anecdotes about domestic violence can be. But I still find myself saying, as one reviewer put it, "This really happened? This is a true story?" It often feels like this is a problem for a previous time, one that should have been vanquished decades ago. And yet the sheer magnitude of cases and data prove that it is not. Still, I've learned to take statistics with a grain of salt. 

During the Kickstarter campaign to launch She Can Fly, I outlined a series of what I thought were basic facts about domestic violence as proof of the need for this cautionary tale. Let's play two truths and lie:

1. A woman is beaten or assaulted every nine seconds in the US.

2. Three victims die at the hands of abusers daily.

3. Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women.

Number three, it turns out, is untrue. Though the fact was touted by high-level pundits and still appears in many reputable domestic violence resources, according to the CDC, Unintentional Injuries (which is a larger umbrella term that encompasses all murders and then those by intimate partners) falls sixth on the list after heart disease, cancer, strokes and other diseases. So, the fact doesn't check out, and I have since tried to correct the claim whenever I hear it made, but it's still pretty darn horrifying. 

Then, in an Associated Press story on on Oct. 1, Gloria Steinem said this: 

"If you added up all the women who have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends since 9/11, and then you add up all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq, more women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends."

Before I could raise an eyebrow, the internet was already double checking her claim. And guess what?

It's true. 

According to Pundit Fact, "Since Sept. 11, 2001, more women have been killed by 'intimate partners' than all of the victims in Sept. 11 and the American victims in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan" combined.

This one had even me speechless. I saw the numbers. I saw the sources. I simply couldn't wrap my head around it. Being a visual person, I decided to graph the data. I even literally painted the facts into a mixed-media oil painting, hoping to make things look prettier, more optimistic...

It didn't work. 

No chart in the world could make this situation look good. 

Though domestic violence resources are slowly starting to see federal budgeting increases after the 2013 sequestrations, the reality is they are all vastly underfunded. The National Network to End Domestic Violence reports:

"Across the country, domestic violence programs and shelters are operating with less funding and fewer resources and staff. When victims take the difficult step to reach out for help, many are in life-threatening situations and must be able to find immediate safety and support. Stable funding is now more essential than ever to ensure that programs across the country can keep the lights on, answer crisis calls, and provide essential services for victims fleeing violence."

I don't feel qualified to comment on the fact that we've spent $1.2 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while, on a single day in 2013, nearly 10,000 domestic violence victims could't get the help they needed. I can't analyze the spending breakdowns. I have trouble even comparing the two situations in my mind.

But I can bring them to your attention. And tell you, yes, this really happened. This is a true story.