National News

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a Call for Action

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The month of October calls for the recognition of the horrific issue of domestic violence in the United States. It is a time to consider and reflect on the countless women, children, and even men that have fallen victim to this devastating issue. Additionally, it is a time to work harder than ever toward the combating of this senseless crime.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month, also referred to as “DVAM” came about from the “Day of Unity” in October of 1981 and was created by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The goal was to unite advocates committed to ending domestic violence against women and children all across the United States.

The “Day of Unity” eventually went on to become a weeklong period of recognition of the issue through local, state, and national-level activities. Such activities differed quite significantly in nature; however, their common primary themes across the nation included mourning the deaths of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, celebrating the victims that have survived, as well as uniting those who work tirelessly to end domestic violence, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds in the United States. Similarly, on average, nearly 20 people per about every minute are physically abused by their sexual or romantic partner.

It is important to note that women are not the only sex that experience domestic violence, though. While 1 in 5 women have been victims of what the NCADV deems “severe physical violence” also by a sexual/ romantic partner at some point in their lifetime, 1 in 7 men have as well. Men are victims of almost 3 million physical assaults in the United States, according to the domestic violence agency Safe Horizon.

With how severely domestic violence affects women and men, it is often easy to forget and even be virtually unaware of how it also detrimentally affects children. Also according to Safe Horizon, more than 60% of domestic violence occurrences happen at home. More than 3 million children witness acts of domestic violence in their homes each year. Children in homes that experience this issue suffer from abuse and/or neglect at rates between 30 and 60%. Children who are often exposed to acts of domestic violence at home are more likely to suffer from health problems such as becoming sick more frequently, getting headaches or stomachaches often, and being more tired and sluggish than other children. Children are also more likely to intervene when witnessing acts of violence against a parent, which therefore can place them at high risk of injury or possibly even death.

If ever you come into contact with an issue of domestic violence whether affecting you personally or someone you know, immediately contact the National Domestic Violence Toll-Free Hotline at 1-800-787-3224. You can also follow them on Twitter for updates; their handle is @NDVH. On average, more than 20,000 phone calls are made to domestic violence hotlines each day; so, if you are being affected by this issue, do not hesitate to call for advice and help if need be. Additionally, there is another popular domestic violence hotline that is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The number is 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).

Aside from contacting the hotlines, other forms of help provided by domestic violence agencies include emotional support, safety planning, a safe place to stay in case of an emergency situation, legal assistance, and help with housing. Also, cost of seeking help is not something victims need to worry about. Due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), health insurance plans now must provide coverage for screening and counseling for issues of domestic and any relational violence for all women. Depending on insurance plans, it may be possible to receive totally free screening and counseling if this issue affects you.

According to the NCADV, being victimized by domestic violence parallels with a substantial rate of depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, which is why it is vital to seek counseling following encounters with this issue. If you think that your partner is repressive and abusive and that you are experiencing threats and/or acts of domestic violence, the most important things to do according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services include: first and foremost trusting your gut because if something about your relationship seems off, you are probably right, learning the warning signs of people who might become controlling or abusive, and getting help by talking to experts in relationship violence. The worst possible thing to do is to wait to seek help, as violence within relationships typically only gets worse as time goes on.

Additional steps to take action to protect yourself when you believe you may be experiencing threats and/ or acts of domestic violence include making a specific plan to stay safe (whether it be to get out of the relationship or to stay) and protecting yourself online by being mindful of the things you search and virtually “covering your tracks” (your search history and general online activity) if need be.

The absolute most important step to take following an attack of domestic abuse is to seek counseling services. Too often, victims attempt to deal with the effects of this horrific crime on their own. They think that time will eventually heal them physically and mentally, so they just wait it out and deal with it internally on their own. This is one of the worst and most detrimental things that can be done for mental health. It is crucial that victims of this heinous crime seek counseling to talk through their experience in order to begin the recovery process. There is no shame in talking to someone because if your partner physically harms you, it is undoubtedly not your fault.

Domestic violence doesn’t simply affect physical health and well-being by the injuries it causes. The stress induced by relationship violence can also lead to very serious physical and mental problems such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, thoughts of suicide, PTSD, trust issues, the inability to form relationships, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Domestic violence also impacts its victims’ economically. According to the NCADV, between 21 and 60% of victims of domestic violence lose their jobs due to the aftermath of the abuse they suffer from following their attacks. Additionally, victims of relationship violence lose a collective total of 8 million days of paid work each year.

“Saint Leo University Counseling Services is a confidential counseling center that is accessed by more and more students each year,” said Saint Leo University Prevention Counselor Tiffany Nelson. “During this past school year, 332 Saint Leo students utilized Counseling Services for issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, and, relationship difficulties; the top four most common issues students come in for.”.

“If you have experienced intimate partner violence, or are concerned you may be in an unhealthy relationship, Counseling Services would be glad to talk with you to help you figure out your next steps. We are located in DeChantal Hall, Suite 121. Students can make an appointment by stopping by, calling 352-588-8199, or emailing Machele Nutt,” added Nelson.

The Day of Unity themes of mourning the deaths of the fallen victims of domestic violence, celebrating the ones that have survived, and connecting advocates of ending domestic violence continue to serve as primary focuses of Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities and events to this day. October of 1987 was a crucial time for some of the first impactful attempts at combating domestic violence. During this time, the very first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was celebrated and the first domestic violence national toll-free hotline was created.

Then, in 1989, Congress passed legislation specifically designating October of that year as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. That same legislation has passed every single year since with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) spearheading their continued efforts.

For updates on and information regarding DVAM and domestic violence in general, you can follow the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on Twitter; their handle is @NCADV. Additionally, to learn more about people’s personal encounters with domestic violence and to keep up with their allies that work hard to end this issue, you can follow the National Network to End Domestic Violence; their handle is @NNEDV.

There should be absolutely no shame or fear in talking to someone and getting help when in comes to life being in danger of domestic violence. This sentiment is obviously easier said than done, as there certainly is an incredible amount of fear and worry that comes along with seeking help in many cases; however, in the end, it is possible to be saved from threats and acts of domestic violence. The help available to be received will be worth it, as the advocates of ending domestic violence work tirelessly to help victims affected by this hateful crime.

Absolutely no one deserves physical abuse from his or her partner because “love shouldn’t hurt,” as advocates for fighting and ending domestic violence say in promotion of their campaign.

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