Domestic Violence

Too Common –Yet Preventable
By Peg J. Dierkers

The headlines would be shocking enough if they had been culled from multiple cities over several days or weeks. However, they all appeared the same day –  Aug. 15, 2013 – in just one city, Pittsburgh, and in just one newspaper, The Post-Gazette: “Boyfriend Arrested in Woman’s Etna Strangling Death,” “Hearing Postponed for Pitt Researcher Accused in Wife’s Cyanide Death” and “Fired Moon Police Officer Accused of Assaulting Wife Ordered to Anger Management Classes.”  Pittsburgh is not the only Pennsylvania town grappling with the daily threat of domestic violence. Sadly, it’s all too common in our commonwealth. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV), 141 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to domestic violence last year, including four in Dauphin, seven in Lancaster and eight in York.  Among the state’s victims: an infant; an elementary-school music teacher shot by her ex-husband as she played the organ during her church’s Sunday service; a 17-year-old girl whose boyfriend is accused of deliberately wrecking the car they were riding in and sitting on her as she lay trapped in the overturned car until she was smothered to death; and a 20-year-old woman beaten, bludgeoned with a shovel, strangled, drowned and buried alive.

More than half of the victims were shot. Others were poisoned, burned, pushed down stairs or bludgeoned with baseball bats and pipe wrenches.  Domestic violence is to commonplace in our society. According to, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S.  According to the National Institute of Health, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 to 44 – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.  One in five teenaged girls, who have been in a relationship, said a boyfriend has threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.  Domestic violence victims lose nearly eight million days of paid work per year in the U.S. alone – the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.  One in three women will become victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.  October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, the PCADV and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape have jointly launched a new campaign to raise public awareness and reduce domestic violence in our communities. A linchpin to the campaign is a new website (, which features personal testimonials from survivors of domestic violence, as well as resources available to victims of domestic violence and their significant others.  The campaign also features a new lapel pin, a teal-colored zero, which represents the ultimate goal of no more domestic violence in our communities. The goal of this awareness campaign is to make the pin as recognizable as the pink ribbon is for breast cancer awareness.  It’s important to let domestic violence victims know that there are alternatives to enduring abusive relationships that threaten their safety and jeopardize the long-term health of their children. Studies show that domestic violence is the leading predictor of child abuse, and that boys who witness domestic violence in their homes are 1,500 times more likely to perpetrate abuse later in life.  With a recent grant from Futures Without Violence (, the PCADV is joining with school nurses and family health practices in six Central Pennsylvania communities to teach students about healthy relationships. The emphasis is on building school nurses’ skills to prompt conversations about the topic.  A teen-dating-violence law, passed in Pennsylvania in 2010, required the state Department of Education to develop a model policy to assist school districts in developing their own policies on dating-violence reporting and response. This law also encourages schools to incorporate teen-dating-violence information into the annual health curriculum for students in grades nine through 12. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 12 percent of teenagers have experienced some form of physical abuse by a dating partner.  When sexual, emotional and verbal abuse are figured in, some statistics put the rate at one in three teens.  Domestic violence is one of our society’s major problems, which hides in plain sight – it’s such an everyday occurrence that most of us tune it out like white noise, oblivious to the physical, financial and psychological toll it exacts – when, in fact, the cost is high.  We need to let victims know that help is available, and each of us needs to take action so that domestic violence is no more.

Peg J. Dierkers is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a private, non-profit membership organization that ensures the availability of effective and appropriate services to victims through training, program development and monitoring of programs for compliance with federal and state requirements as well as the coalition’s comprehensive program standards. For more information about PCADV and its services, please visit

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its 60 member affiliates have been providing assistance to domestic violence since 1976. Among the services offered are: legal assistance in obtaining protection-from-abuse orders and navigating the legal system; shelter and relocation assistance; an address-confidentiality program that hides your new address from your attacker; and a toll-free national hotline available 24/7, (800) 799-SAFE.


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