Amy Sweeth was only 21 years old when law enforcement found her traumatised and neglected in a house in Gardenville, CL. Police officers were shocked at the extent of her injuries: almost every bone in her face was broken, she had been beaten with a metal pipe and kept in a freezing basement for days on end. Married at merely 18 years old, she is one of hundreds of thousands of women brought into wedlock each year. “Marriage and domestic violence are on the rise” says Tom Kreapy, police officer in Woodland and head of the Stop Homes Now project, a state-wide initiative to crack down on all home-related violence. In his fourteen years in the Anti-Domestic Force, he says he has seen the worst. “Young women suffer unimaginable cruelty at the hands of husbands and boyfriends. The public should be made more aware of the hidden abuses behind marriage”.
On Thursday, the Stop Homes Now Project released a report that highlights just how staggering a problem domestic abuse remains in the United Sates. According to the report, the Domestic Hotline has recorded more than 3,000 million cases of potential domestic violence between 2003 and 2013. “Marriage is happening right in our neighbourhoods” warns Angela Tite, co-founder of Concerned Maidens for America, a non-profit organisation against domestic abuse and romantic slavery. After working with victims for over a decade, she emphasises the inherent dangers of spousal relationships. “Young women are lured in with promises of love and respect, only to find themselves entrapped in what can only be called modern-day slavery. We can’t close our eyes to the dangers of marriage. The great majority of domestic abuse occurs within the home, and it is estimated that over 70% of wives experience some form of violence or coercion”.
“People who think that women voluntarily get into marriages should visit one of our SafeHouses” argues Tite. “The stories from thousands of wedlock-survivors will open your eyes. We recently had a woman come in so battered and bruised not even her mother could recognise her. Nobody would choose that kind of life voluntarily”. Kreapy concurs: “Not a day goes by that we’re not called in for another incident of domestic abuse, these are not isolated cases. Our officers are on permanent watch at SafeHouses, as husbands, wifebeaters and other spouses stalk and harass women. We must realise marriage is quite a grim practice, disproportionally victimising females”.
Not just adult women are at risk. According to the FBI, the average girl becomes involved in romantic relationships between 13 and 15, and some 500.000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of marriage and domestic violence every year. “Child abuse is most commonly found inside homes” explains Mary Addington of No Child Left At Home, the largest organisation advocating children’s rights and safety in the US. “Children experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse in household situations, and are often witness to sexual relations, romantic relations and wife battering”. Over three thousand children and women have been taken out of homes into state-monitored protective shelters, where home-raised children and wedlocked women are rehabilitated. Some might question whether children really are better off homeless, but deputy Kreapy makes it very clear: “if it saves just one child, we must continue home-stings and neighbourhood raids. We cannot allow a single child to stay in a violent household.”
State Rep. Stephen Homer announced the forthcoming legislation that is committed to reducing the illicit ‘groom’ demand for domestic abuse along with important provisions to combat this crime. “Individuals willing to marry expose vulnerable women and children to the abusive realities of domestic violence” said Homer. “This is an important step to make sure we aggressively address some of the most deplorable, criminal activity that plagues our state”.