October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Know the signs of domestic violence are and learn more about how to help victims of abuse.

In 1981 the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence held the first Day of Unity to observe and remember victims of domestic violence. Since then, October is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic, as well as dating and sexual violence, are expensive and widespread problems in the United States. Domestic violence causes victims, witnesses and bystanders to suffer immense pain and loss. In addition to the lives taken and injuries suffered, domestic violence destroys the sense of well-being that allows people to thrive. It can cause health problems that last a lifetime and reduce children’s prospects in school and in life.

According to the National Domestic Violence Fact Sheet:

  • Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
  • Women who have experienced domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 60 percent more likely to have asthma and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than women who have not experienced intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence is preventable. We can help stop this violence and work to promote healthy relationships, families and communities. Some of us may know someone who is a victim of domestic violence. If you know or suspect that someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, it is important to recognize the signs and become familiar with local resources.

Signs someone might be in an abusive relationship:

  • Isolation – not going out with friends, not taking phone calls when at home or not wanting to talk about things
  • Control – not having access to or needing to get permission from a partner to spend money
  • Insults – their partner puts them down or humiliates them in front of others, putting themselves down or defending partner’s bad behavior
  • Changes in behavior – getting more injuries than normal with explanations that don’t make sense, being anxious about being late getting home

How can you help?

  • Listen without judgment. Focus on providing support and asking questions. Although it may seem to you that they should just leave, leaving is not always simple and the process of leaving a violent relationship has its dangerous.
  • Become familiar with local resources. Find out about the local services – phone numbers, places and websites. Be able to refer your friend to an expert that can help identify their options and develop a safety plan. Offer to go with them to talk to someone.
  • Remember leaving or letting go is not always the immediate remedy. It can take an average of five to seven times for a victim of domestic violence to leave the relationship. Some may never leave. Even if you are frustrated because you care, remember that your friend or family member needs to know you are still there for them. Pulling away from them will only make them feel more isolated and less likely to leave.
  • Focus on what they want, not what you would do if it were you. Ask your friend what s/he wants to do. Listen to him or her talk about his or her needs, frustrations and fears. Just asking for help or reaching out is a big step.

Healthy relationships should have the basic qualities of respect, love, equality and communication. Everyone can and should speak out against domestic violence. The problem will continue until we all stand up and say no more. We need to teach future generations that violence is wrong and make others aware of the signs of abuse. We need to be advocates for victim support programs, and ensure services are available to all victims including children who witness violence.

For more information on domestic violence, see the following resources:  

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