George Zimmerman is making headlines again. But this time around, Zimmerman is on trial for allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend.
For some people, it might be easy to brush this case off as yet another instance of Zimmerman’s erratic behavior. For other people, Zimmerman’s actions are a painful reminder of the Trayvon Martin tragedy and Florida’s deeply flawed stand-your-ground law.
But in addition to discussing Zimmerman’s past actions, it’s extremely important to evaluate the gravity of what he has done to a presumed loved one. Zimmerman’s most recent blunder sheds light on a terrifying epidemic — domestic violence.
In her 9-11 call, Zimmerman’s girlfriend Samantha Scheibe told authorities, “He’s inside my house breaking all my (things) because I asked him to leave,” according to CNN.
Though it is important to reflect on Zimmerman’s past actions, the most important fact here is that Scheibe isn’t alone. Thousands of others are in the same boat — silenced by mental or physical abuse perpetrated by someone they love.
Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic violence, reported how over 3 million children experience domestic violence in their homes each year.
For those unconvinced by the emotional weight of these stories, consider the economic implications of allowing domestic violence to continue. Safe Horizon’s website states, “According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families.” Furthermore, domestic violence cases cost the nation more than $37 billion because of the amount of effort needed to treat victims including law enforcement, legal work and medical and mental health treatment.
But domestic violence is not unique to the United States — it touches every corner of the world, demonstrating how ingrained it has become in the behavior of mankind. A United Nations Development Programme study found that one in four citizens of Montenegro blame the victim in domestic violence cases. The Women’s International Zionist Organization reported that 200,000 women have been physically abused in Israel. It wasn’t until recently that Saudi Arabia outlawed domestic violence — up until late August, men could legally beat their wives. Human Rights Watch reports that in 1999, nearly 90 percent of Pakistani women were victims of domestic violence.
There’s a misconception that such cases traditionally occur between married couples, and the media can be blamed for perpetuating these inaccuracies. But domestic violence isn’t limited to married couples — it can happen on a college campus like USC.
According to a 2007 study from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 32 percent of college students experienced dating violence by a previous partner, and 21 percent of college students experienced it with a current partner.
But with such a complex issue, where can we even start in solving it?
First, society must stop trivializing domestic violence. In 2012, a fictional Apple advertisement for Siri went viral. When asked to tell a joke about Chris Brown and Rihanna, Siri responded: “I can’t. I always forget the punch line.”
This October, one Texas bar owner scrawled onto a store-front display, “I like my beer like I like my violence: Domestic.”
It might seem funny for a moment. It might elicit a few laughs. But such jokes come at the expense of the victims — such jests might fade with time, but the scars of those who suffer each day will not.
This must cease in order for domestic violence to be viewed as problem to solve, rather than a problem to treat lightly.
Second, more efforts must be made to educate and reach out to those affected by domestic violence. Counseling services on college campuses and a greater increase in public service announcements are one way to do this.
Third, the government must take responsibility for implementing hefty punishments on perpetrators such as Zimmerman — not a single one of them deserves to get off easy. Otherwise, it runs the risk of allowing the cycle to continue.
Though these three steps won’t solve everything, it’s a start. With the collective efforts of organizations such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, greater attention can be brought to this problem. There’s potential to end the violence and the time is now.
So whether it’s Zimmerman or someone you know, there is never an excuse for abuse.
Rini Sampath is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She is also the editorial director at the Daily Trojan.
Follow Rini on Twitter @RiniSampath