Chicago Says No More | Every 3 Seconds: An Overview of Domestic Violence
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Every 3 Seconds: An Overview of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is, to put it plainly, a huge problem in America. How huge? In the U.S., 20 people are abused by a partner every minute. That’s one case of abuse every three seconds.  1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience violence by their partners in their lifetimes. Domestic violence and its effects cost the U.S. more than $8.3 billion per year. Chicago’s Domestic Violence Help Line receives over 500 calls a day, and 44 percent of the violent-crime admissions to Cook County Jail are related to domestic violence.

 In light of this enormous human toll—and the economic, social and cultural impact that goes along with it—why, then, isn’t domestic violence discussed more? Part of the problem is one of definition. Each of us has our own differing ideas and standards regarding of what exactly constitutes “domestic violence,” what “counts” as abuse. And while we tend to believe that there’s some shared baseline of what it means to cross the line, what is and is not acceptable, you might be surprised:

  • 2 in 5 Americans, when asked to define domestic violence, do not include hitting, slapping or punching
  • 9 in 10 Americans, when asked to list indicators of domestic violence, do not include repeated emotional, verbal abuse and controlling behaviors


Widely held conceptions such as these need to change. Domestic violence is not just the textbook image of the husband beating his wife or the mother hitting her children or the couple getting rough in a restaurant. The fact is that while domestic violence of course includes physical violence, it also includes much more:

  • Using violence
  • Threatening violence
  • Exerting strict control over financial resources, social interactions or appearance
  • Requiring constant contact, including excessive phone calls and texts
  • Insulting a partner in front of other people
  • Exhibiting extreme jealousy
  • Instilling fear in a partner
  • Isolating a partner from family and friends


Domestic violence is a big problem in America, and it’s also a deep one: its effect on our country is deep, our conceptions and misconceptions about it are deep, and the variety of ways in which it can manifest are deep. We need to acknowledge the enormity and the reach of the problem, and update our ideas on what “domestic violence” really means. We should quit saying that certain abusive behaviors “don’t count,” and Join Chicago says No More in speaking out. 

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