Our calendars are now full with months dedicated to causes or days celebrating individuals’ lives. Sometimes, it can be easier to err on the side of passively acknowledging the event and then moving on. But before you do that, consider this: domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States between the ages of 15 to 44.
This number amounts to more than car accidents, muggings, and rape combined. That statistic alone should illustrate the importance of recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Ending domestic violence takes comprehensive education. On average it takes seven attempts for someone to finally leave an abusive relationship, and when a victim leaves their partner, they face a 75 percent risk of being killed. However, some people do not know this, and still ask the question, “Why don’t they just leave?”
Domestic Violence can affect anyone. It transcends race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Statistically, 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women. However, men are also victims and face unique challenges in reporting this, due to strict gender expectations set in place by society. Additionally, individuals on the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexed, asexual) spectrum also face struggles reporting abuse, in fear of either experiencing discrimination or not finding adequate, available resources.
One of the most effective ways abusers gain control over their victims is through isolation. This proves the importance of a community response to domestic violence. Abusers want their victims to feel that there is no one they can turn to – except, of course, to the abusers themselves. If we are educated to spot signs of abuse, we can prevent this from happening.
If your friend seems stressed about always having to please his or her partner or feels like they must be in constant contact, these are possible signs of abuse. If your friend mentions that his or her partner has access to their passwords or monitors their social networks, this is also a sign of abuse. Recognizing these signs allows you to support your friend and connect them with accessible resources. It is important for victims of domestic violence to know they are not alone.
Intimate partner violence is not always physical. It can include verbal threats, control of finances, destruction of valuables, abuse or neglect of pets, name calling, belittling, or controlling what their partner eats. Intimate partner violence encompasses a wide array of behaviors, but they all relate to an abuser’s desire to establish power and control over their victim.
If someone you know confides in you about being abused, listen. Remember that abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator, and never the fault of the victim. One third of American women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. It is critical that we educate ourselves so we can increase awareness, help others and shape a safer community.
Luckily, there are many great educational resources about domestic violence that are easily accessible. The Sexual Misconduct Assault Resource Team (SMART) is working to educate our campus about sexual assault and intimate partner violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced intimate partner violence, the counseling center can provide support. Additionally, the local domestic violence agency, New Hope, does incredible outreach work on our campus.
Domestic violence happens in all communities, including ours. Please take some time this month to educate yourself and others about the realities of domestic violence.