Silent Epidemic

10.14.138:11 PM ET

Few Think Domestic Violence Affects Pals

A new study from the Avon Foundation for Women found a disconnect between reports of domestic or sexual violence and assumptions by friends and family.

In “No More,” a new study commissioned by the Avon Foundation for Women, researchers found a curious disconnect: the majority of American teens and adults surveyed know a victim of domestic or sexual violence, but very few think it's a problem among their own friends. In the report, which canvassed more than 1,000 men and women ages 15 and up, one in two confessed to personally knowing a survivor of domestic violence, while one in three knew a victim of sexual assault. What’s more, one in three women and one in seven men said they’d survived domestic violence, while 20 percent of women and six percent of men had been victim of a sexual attack.

Despite the statistics—and the widespread belief, reported by 80 percent of those surveyed, that domestic violence is a huge problem in the country—it remains a taboo topic among friends and family members. The “No More” study found that only 15 percent of respondents thought their own friends had suffered from domestic or sexual violence, while three out of four parents with young kids or teens admitted they did not discuss the fraught topics with their children. Even more disturbing? While 75 percent of people said they’d surely step in and help if they saw a stranger being abused, the numbers tell a different tale. Out of the 70 percent of female domestic violence survivors who told someone about their assault, more than half say no one helped them. For men—perhaps because of entrenched attitudes that equate masculinity with power—only 47 percent of those who experienced domestic violence decided to report it, and a depressing 87 percent of them said that no one stepped forward with aid.

The survey's silver lining? Most people said that if the country talked more about domestic and sexual violence, they'd feel more comfortable knowing the right way to action when confronted with it.