On a deeper level, experts say domestic violence has its roots in a sexist culture. "It comes from the belief that one gender has more power than the other," Southworth says, referring to the idiom about "who wears the pants in the family," for example. "Why does anybody need to wear pants? Why can't we all wear pants?" she says. "I believe when we have completely annihilated that concept out of our sort of collective cultural experience, we will have really ended domestic violence."
Already, there are some hopeful signs. Among them, "we have a world that is far more willing to talk about domestic violence," says Southworth, noting an increasing number of men taking a stand against domestic violence and the No More campaign, which, like ribbon campaigns to raise awareness for breast cancer or AIDS, offers a symbol to spread cultural awareness.
Despite advances being made in public education campaigns and even a slight drop in violence against women in recent years, increasing violence in pornography and movies pose powerful and dangerous influences, Bancroft says.
In the meantime, there are several steps people can take to protect themselves and their loved ones.
For one thing, know what domestic violence looks and feels like. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, it encompasses "any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone."
Early detection is key because, although it may seem counterintuitive, the longer one stays in an abusive relationship, the harder it is to leave, Bancroft says. That has to do with many factors, from fear of retaliation and financial dependency to the so-called "Stockholm syndrome," in which victims feel attached to their abusers.
"The No. 1 thing we really want young women to tune into is disrespect," Bancroft says. "Does he see you as a person? Does he care about your goals and interests? Is he interested in your opinion?" Answers to these questions can separate a healthy relationship from a destructive one. Young people can further explore the relationship between love and respect through the aptly-named website loveisrespect.org.
A healthy relationship should feel, among other things, safe. "There's equality, there's healthy communication, you can express how you feel and not be afraid," says Ray-Jones.
If you suspect that you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, visit the following websites for more information: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women.