October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I am writing this letter to inform you all of a national issue that is very important to us–– domestic violence.
Domestic violence, in my opinion, is some of the worst abuse a person can go through. Not only do victims of domestic violence suffer physical abuse, they also endure emotional, mental, verbal and financial abuse, all in silence.
In this letter, I hope to open eyes to the problem our society faces and shed some light on ways to end this deadly cycle.
In the United States, an average of 20 people experience intimate partner physical violence every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people, regardless of age, socioeconomics status, sexual orientation, gender, race religion, or nationality. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime. (https://www.NCADV.org/statistics)
I’m sure after reading the previous paragraph, some of you are in shock. So many people endure domestic violence and never say a word because they either live in fear or shame, and do not have the financial means to leave.
When a person stays out of fear, he or she believes in their mind that they will suffer dire consequences of even death if their escape is unsuccessful.
When a person stays out of shame, he or she may feel that because they allowed this to happen, they deserve the punishment or that they are not worthy of anyone’s assistance. This tends to happen when a person has endured a lot of psychological torture. Often I hear, “If they would just get a job, they could afford to leave,” but what many people do not understand is that victims of domestic violence lose a total of 8,000,000 million days of paid work each year, which is the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs or that 21 to 60 percent of victims lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse. (https://www.NCADV.org/statistics)
Now that you have learned more about the effects of domestic violence, I am sure many of you are wondering what you can do to help. There are many ways to help victims of domestic violence, but the most important things you can do are observe, listen and speak up. When I tell people to observe, I usually get a look of disconcertment, but what I mean is to pay closer attention to the people you love. Does he or she seem like they have a lot on their mind? Is he or she wearing out of season clothes to hide injuries? Can he or she not concentrate? Simple questions as these can lead to so much more if asked in an empathetic way. The next thing you can do is listen. If someone has come to you to confide in you that this is happening to them, be a listening ear. Do not start telling them what to do and getting mad yourself, because this creates more stress for the victim. Truly listen to them, and let them know you are there for them and that you support whatever decision they decide to make, because, after all, non of us know someone else’s situation better than they do. Doing this will give them a feeling of self-confidence and allow them to make an empowering decision on their own.
Lastly, speak up. If you witness acts of domestic violence, call 911. Let them know someone cares; you may be the only voice they have.
I hope that after reading this letter you understand the significance of this issue in our country. Every day that we sit in silence, one in 4 women and one in nine men experience some form of domestic violence. If we will just put forth the effort to speak up, we can be the change. Help me be the change.
Victims Advocate Coordinator
Domestic Violence Crisis Services Fort Payne