As this year closes, there is a lot to be thankful for and hopeful about regarding abusive relations of many kinds.
Several South Jersey women recently talked candidly about their personal experiences as victims of domestic abuse — on camera for videos in our Breaking the Cycle series (still available at pressofac.com). That provides the best kind of help and encouragement to others in abusive relationships.
Their words make clear that victims, the people in their lives and the public need to recognize the many forms domestic violence can take. They must understand the severity and variety of its consequences, and the help that is available. And the responsibility for it must fall squarely on the abusers, freeing the victims to go forward with their lives and society to sharpen its intolerance of abusive actions.
The willingness and courage of victims to go public with their stories is a very good sign that steady progress over decades is leading to a breakthrough. The rate of violence against partners has fallen by two-thirds since 1994, says the U.S. Justice Department, but now Americans seem to be aligning with a social norm that abusive relations of any form aren’t acceptable.
Domestic abuse is the most acute kind — even with the improvement, it resulted in 52 deaths in New Jersey last year — but many other abuses have been targeted with increased attention and demands for action this year.
Egregious cases of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood quickly prompted others to come forward with similar allegations against politicians and media stars. Business leaders, right on up to founders and CEOs, were next, and corporations quickly took action against anyone subject to credible accusations.
Last week the trend reached the nonprofit Miss America Pageant and broke into slightly new territory — toxic bosses and management.
In the midst of such dramatic, rapid and profound change, seeing the destination society is headed for is difficult. But the path looks pretty clear.
America seems to have reached a tipping point. A generation of work toward stopping bad behavior — mostly directed against women, but also men, teens, children and people with disabilities — has built awareness and resolve into a storm that strikes with corrective bolts at the most prominent offenders.
This is a thrilling advance in civilization. Sure, care must be taken that its power and enthusiasm don’t overshoot and harm innocent people or essential American qualities such as due process and free speech, but human life is changing for the better and everyone is part of it.
And it all started with everyday people seeing a problem and speaking out.