Victims of Domestic Violence: the Underreported “Silent” Populations in the Community

From Buffalo, N.Y., reports stated that the founder of a television station in New York was convicted of beheading his wife in 2009, the act had happened in the broadcast studio opened by the couple. Mr. Hassan, 46, bought two hunting knives less than an hour before the attack, parked his luxury vehicle out of view at the station and then hid inside. Surveillance video captured some of the attack inside a darkened hallway; during a 37-second frenzy that began when Mr. Hassan’s wife walked through the door, he stabbed her more than 40 times in the face, back and chest and decapitated her. A jury deliberated for one hour before rejecting his claim that the killing was justified because he was long abused by and afraid of his wife. Mr. Hassan, who acted as his own lawyer during the trial, will face up to 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.

Domestic violence is every bit as much a public health issue. Women are almost always the victims of this national epidemic. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, 85% of domestic violence victims are women. A witness to the incident was present in 50% of domestic violence cases; half of those witnesses were children. Furthermore, young children are more likely to be exposed to violence in the home than to violence in the street. The violence that occurs within the home is worse for children. They are more intensely affected and the consequences last longer. This form of violence has been hidden from the public eye. There has been little media attention to domestic violence unless it was a fatal or particularly horrific episode of abuse.  

When a woman is beaten or killed by a man, the result is a tragedy, not a statistic. Mr. Hassan, in a stereotyped manner of “blaming the victim,” ̶ complained of continuous harassment by his wife as an excuse for killing her. However, it could not be verified that the wife indeed harassed her husband and if she did the assertion that it would have been reason enough to kill her is absurd. Our societal response has been focused on punishing violent abusers after the violence has happened, or to hospitalizing those who have committed acts of violence after their illness has brought about someone else’s severe injury or mortality.

The situation of domestic violence could be exacerbated by social isolation. The abuser isolates the victim so that no family or support system is available to give the victim feedback on the acts of domestic violence. The victim’s life is limited by the “web” of values and actions of her husband or partner, this in turn leads to domination and control by the abuser.

There is high relapse rate of abusive behaviors by abusers, and the best secondary prevention is the treatment of violent men. However, domestic violence is underreported to police. Reasons for not reporting include attitudes about police intervention, fears of repercussions, and lacking of awareness and skills for reporting. Just listening to and learning from those reported cases is not enough, there is a substantial need for enhancing community programs fostering self-report of domestic violence.

~ William Huang


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  • gwmchstudents

    This culture of blaming the victim has got to stop. When has violence ever been deserved. Abuse now and forever, and in every context is about control. It seems as if the culture of will never change and its really sad to think that this issue has been so culturally ingrained and I don’t see it ever stopping. In all the topics we have discussed in all MCH classes, if women were valued we wouldn’t be facing such public health issues. Great account William!


    -Sapna Khatri

  • gwmchstudents

    Thank you, William for this powerful post! It is sad to remember how frequently victim blaming occurs internationally.  The story you’ve described is distrubing on a number of levels; hopefully one day in our lifetimes we can see more positive and dramatic changes that can make a difference.


    J. Bloomfield


  • beenthere72

    Here in Mass, a 72 year old man just murdered his wife within the past couple of days, which is leading to new legislation being proposed that would give family members rights to their loved one’s body if killed by a spouse:



    I was shocked to hear that a murdering spouse still had rights over their dead spouse’s body.   I hope this legislation passes.

  • datasnake

    imagine if the genders had been reversed. A woman kills her husband and, at the trial, says that he had been abusing her for years. Would you assume that she was just “blaming the victim”?

  • gwmchstudents

    DataSnake’s comment got me thinking. It made me wonder why Mr. Hassan, if he was continually being abused by his wife, didn’t obtain a protection order or seek other ways of minimizing the violence. Are men less likely than women to seek outside help because they comprise a minority of DV victims? Are men embarrassed to come forth with their experiences? Do social norms contribute to their inability to admit they are suffering DV in their home?

    Another potential explanation for this heinous crime is that Mr. Hassan was the perpetrator of the DV and his wife was the victim of long-term abuse at his hands. As William noted, because she is no longer alive we cannot obtain her side of the story. However, from my experience as a women’s advocate in a DV shelter, I know that DV is usually carried out by the male partner in a heterosexual relationship and tends to occur in cycles, often getting progressively worse. It’s possible that the death of Mr. Hassan’s wife was the culmination of many abusive incidents carried out by Mr. Hassan against Mrs. Hassan. If this was the case, why didn’t Mrs. Hassan try to obtain a protection order or seek help from friends and relatives? What social, cultural, and cognitive barriers prevent women from attempting to leave a violent situation?

    I don’t want to minimize the fact that some men are victims of DV. Clearly there are barriers to seeking and obtaining help for both men and women experiencing DV, so it is not untrue to say that we need community programs to increase self-reports of DV for both men and women. That said, however, I think it is important to remember that nearly all victims of DV are women and so the majority of resources should be devoted to the needs of vulnerable women who often suffer in silence and the privacy of their homes.


    Felisa Gonzales

  • gwmchstudents

    Wonderful post William. It is always heartbreaking to hear of these tragic and often horrific accounts of DV. I always wonder…how did it get this far? I agree that there is significant need for enhancing programs for self-report. How do we go about doing this? Have there been programs created that are successful? It seems an inherent problem in DV is that the victim often doesn’t perceive the situation as abuse. And if is is usual for the victim to be isolated and lack family or social support how do we begin to reach out to them? 


    A. Chadwick