Domestic violence affects men, women, families and communities, and its impacts are far-reaching. According to the National Coalition on Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. In the U.S. alone, victims seeking help place more than 20,000 phone calls to domestic violence hotlines each day. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, offering a good time to bring this serious issue to light.
What is domestic violence?
The term "domestic violence" refers to any pattern of abusive or violent behavior that is an attempt to gain power and control over an intimate partner. Victims and perpetrators of domestic violence can be of any age, gender or sexual orientation. Although domestic violence behavior exists on a spectrum, the common thread is the abuser's desire for power and control in the relationship.
What are the signs of an abusive relationship?
Every situation is different, but there are some red flags that can indicate an abusive relationship. These include possessive or controlling behavior; physical, emotional, or verbal abuse; jealousy; violence towards animals or children; blaming others or minimizing unacceptable behavior; stalking, and harassment.
What can I do to help?
Friends, family and community members can take action to help victims and prevent domestic violence. Here are some things you can do:
- Educate: Young women are most likely to be the victims of domestic violence. Teach teens and college-aged men and women to recognize the signs and how to find help for themselves or their peers. Better yet, teach them how to build and maintain healthy relationships. Advocate for training on domestic violence prevention in your workplace, church, school and community.
- Volunteer: Support a local shelter by volunteering. Go to www.domesticshelters.org to find shelters in your area. Or, give your time to an organization that works to raise awareness and support victims. Contact your state's Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence for more information.
- Take a stand: Speak out against domestic violence in your community, workplace and family life. Don't support any organization or artistic expression that glorifies violence or minimizes abuse.
What if I am in an abusive relationship?
Leaving an abusive relationship can be scary, confusing and dangerous. Only you can decide what is best for you and your family. One way to start the process is to research your options and available resources. To find help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. This anonymous hotline offers support, guidance and information. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
How do I help a close friend or family member?
Start by listening, not judging. Express your sincere concern, but take your cues from the person you're trying to help. Realize that there are many reasons victims stay with their abusers, and for good reason many intimate partner homicides take place soon after a victim leaves. Offer to help in any way you can, and to be on call if your loved one decides to take action. Finally, document anything you witness or that the victim tells you, to support any potential legal action down the road.
Domestic violence can be prevented
Family violence is a community problem, and can only be solved with a community effort. This October, get involved, and become a part of the solution.
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