Saturday, October 1, 2011

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

One in four women will be affected in their lifetime. One in four teens- both boys and girls- will be impacted by the time they graduate from high school. This is the sad reality of domestic violence and dating abuse, of a relationship where one partner uses various methods of violence and intimidation in order to control the other partner.

Today is October 1st, the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For the first half of the day, I volunteered at the walk that my local domestic violence organization held. I'm not sure how much I did to help with it quite frankly but it did get me thinking about the topic. I'm sure it got the other participants thinking about it too, which was its purpose.

As this organization that I volunteer for commonly points out, domestic violence is not just a woman's issue but a community issue. This isn't only to say that men get abused too (they do) but that abuse has a ripple effect. The victim isn't the only one affected but her (I'm using female pronouns because women are the most common victims of domestic violence) children and her parents and her siblings and the friends of all of the group mentioned. Not to mention the employer and their health care providers, though that's rather minimal in comparison.

I don't think I can stress enough how important of an issue this is. One in four means that if it's not you, it's someone you know (you may not think you know someone but trust me you do). One in four means that it could be you and that you are not invincible.

Domestic violence/ dating violence does not discriminate. Its victims are of all ages, races, creeds, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders. It strikes at random and often comes unexpectedly; this is the reason that most victims choose to stay in the relationship even after the first incident.

Unfortunately, domestic violence and dating violence are deep-rooted problems and there is no easy solution for them. It's a cycle; often the perpetrators have experienced abuse themselves or witnessed it at home. By spreading awareness and offering support for victims, hopefully we can change society's perceptions of it, save lives and prevent other tragedies from occurring in the future.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, seek help immediately. There are emergency shelters that can help the victim flee from the abuser while trying to leave (or another secondary location if the victim is male) and there are also legal actions that can be taken. This is no small matter and should be taken seriously. Ultimately, leaving is something that only the victim can do and while support and a listening ear is crucial, it is important to recognize that. Please note that leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship and that all precautions should be taken in order to ensure the victim's safety.

I would like to point out that abuse isn't just physical.  Verbal, emotional and sexual abuse are just as serious though they aren't as easy for an outsider to identify. Ultimately, abuse is anything that is used by one partner to control and intimidate the other.

Verbal/ emotional abuse includes but is not limited to yelling, name-calling, blaming, shaming, isolating, abusing the victims pets and/or children, threatening, and restricting money/basic necessities.

Sexual abuse is not as well known by the general public but it happens too. Any situation where the victim is forced to participate in sexual activity that degrades them or is against their consent is sexual abuse. In all fifty states in the United States, rape by a spouse is still rape and can be prosecuted as such.

Regardless of the form, abuse is serious in all situations and needs to be treated as such.

This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed by society. Let's not be aware of domestic violence simply in the month of October but all year round.

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