Domestic Violence Happens to Everyone
Regardless of your race, gender, or socioeconomic status, domestic violence is possible. On average, 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States. One in three women, and one in four men, have experienced some form of abuse in their lifetime. Chances are that someone you know is, or has been, a victim. There are things you can do to prevent it from happening to someone else. It’s time to break the silence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
DVAM was started in 1987 as way to unite advocates across the nation. This October marks the 30th anniversary of DVAM, and this year they encourage everyone to take a stand. I hear victim and survivor stories every day. Often times, they involve children who witness the violence. When I hear these stories, I feel powerless and small. Domestic violence is preventable, and I want to make a change.
Here are four important ways you can help.
Do your research
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great place to start. There you can find statistics, learn about the cycle of abuse, and find local organizations for victims. Call your local women’s shelter or district attorney’s office. Most importantly, learn to recognize the signs of abuse. The more you know about domestic abuse, the better equipped you are to help a loved one should they reach out.
I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to see someone you care about stay in an abusive relationship. And I know it’s hard to understand why they don’t just leave. Here’s a startling statistic to put things into perspective: over 70% of domestic violence murders occur after the victim separates from their abuser.
Instead of asking the victim why they don’t leave, let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Let them know that while you are concerned for their safety, you support their decision. Share your newfound knowledge about abuse. Give them the contact information to a local shelter or hotline. Most importantly, let them know they are not alone.
Do Not Try to Intervene
Confronting the abuser could anger them, causing them to take it out on the victim. If you see a situation in progress, please resist the urge to intervene. Keep yourself safe and call the police, as well as the local women’s shelter. The shelter will dispatch an advocate to help the victim through the process following a domestic violence incident. 20% of domestic violence homicide victims are friends, bystanders or first-responders attempting to help the victim. Your safety is important, and there are many other ways you can help the victim.
Help Make A Safety Plan
A safety plan is a personalized, detailed procedure to help a victim stay safe in any situation. Additionally, it should include important information that the victim might not remember during times of crisis. The Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center website has a template you can print out and help the victim complete. It includes strategies for safety during a violent incident, as well as strategies for when the victim is prepared to leave their abuser. Additionally, there is a thorough list of items to take when they go. Instruct the victim to review this safety plan frequently, and keep it in a safe place.
Domestic violence affects millions of men, women, and children every year. While it may not be easy to talk about, I encourage you to try. Educate your children about healthy relationships and what they look like. Over 20% female and 13.4% male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. Share these statistics with your friends and family. Ultimately, breaking the silence is the only way to spread awareness.
Below are some amazing national and local resources:
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
Napa Emergency Women’s Services – (707) 255-NEWS (24 hour Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline)
Family Justice Center Sonoma County – (707) 565-8255