By Sonya D. Lavett
Many are familiar with the color pink in October to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but you may have also noticed purple everywhere. Purple symbolizes that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a topic that can be difficult to speak openly about because it is so hurtful to those who have experienced it first-hand or care about someone who is going through it.
October provides the opportunity for everyone to become aware of this atrocity.
If domestic violence is not kept in the forefront and we are not able to openly talk about it, we may not notice that it is something that surrounds all of us. Keeping silent is precisely what abusers are hoping for. With no awareness or light shined on what they are doing, abusers are able to keep a low profile and continue tormenting their victims.
It can be really scary standing up to someone who uses violence as a means to get what they want. If we speak up, who is to say this person will not turn that aggression on us or, even worse, toward our children?
When we don’t speak up and stand with those who are being abused, we are failing to use the power that we have as individuals to bring awareness to this terrible situation.
What needs to happen is for all of us as individuals to speak up. Where a victim of domestic violence may not have the courage or capacity to seek help, others who are aware of the situation can and should.
With domestic violence, there are often complexities that outsiders do not understand. Common sense would dictate that the victim simply leave the perpetrator, but other underlying factors such as post-traumatic stress, fear of retribution, and financial hardships prevent an individual from seeking a safe place. The only answer in their mind is to stay and remain quiet.
Along with physical abuse, there is always psychological and emotional abuse. The person who has suffered the abuse may choose to stay quiet about the violence because they think that they are the cause of it. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Another factor in a victim keeping quiet is the powerful element of shame. Because the perpetrator blames the victim for their anger and/or actions, the victim begins to see this terrible situation as being his or her fault, which results in feelings of shame. When people feel ashamed of something, they typically will not talk about it.
The fact of the matter is that many women fear walking through a dark parking lot alone at night and being attacked by a stranger, but statistically, women are much more likely to be abused by someone that they know. A husband, a boyfriend, a co-worker or even a neighbor.
The statistics are frightening:
- More than 12 million women and men each year are affected by violence from an intimate partner.
- More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively). (The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2012).
Abuse is certainly not limited to men abusing women. There are plenty of situations where women have been violent towards men. There is also child abuse, elder abuse, and even animal abuse. In a world that can be so crazy and volatile, a person’s home and family should be their safe haven.
Love should not hurt.
If you know of someone who is suffering from domestic abuse, then you know that they need your help. Talk to them and let them know that you care. By communicating love and concern, and not judgement, you could save their life.
Do you want to become involved? There are all sorts of ways to show your support for bringing awareness to domestic violence. Volunteer your time, talk to your kids about it, and wear lots of purple. Again, if you know someone who is being hurt by this, use the power of your voice and help them get the help they need. This world could be such a better place if we all knew that we had at least one person in our corner.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, please know you are not alone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has people ready to assist you and provide a variety of resources. They understand what you are going through and they want you to contact them now. Don’t wait.
Please visit http://www.thehotline.org/ or call (800) 799- SAFE (7233)
For deaf and hard of hearing, please call (800) 787-3224 (TTY)