Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Most people are likely to assume that domestic violence is only physical or sexual assault perpetrated by an intimate partner. Domestic violence can also include verbal and emotional abuse, threats, intimidation, coercion, financial control, and/or other abusive behavior. Domestic violence impacts about 1 in 4 women. About 85% of domestic violence victims are female implying the remaining 15% are male. There are far fewer studies on LGBTQ domestic violence but some studies say LGBTQ domestic violence is comparable at about 1 in 4 while other studies put it at about 1 in 3. Teen dating violence is an issue gaining awareness with about 1 in 3 teens experiencing domestic violence in dating relationships. Domestic violence is a problem that does not discriminate and is pervasive between race, socioeconomic status, education, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and country. This is a worldwide problem that deserves worldwide attention.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) is observed every October since 1987 when the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) also launched the first national domestic violence hotline in the United States. Prior to DVAM, the NCADV had sponsored the Day of Unity every first Monday in October since 1981 in order for domestic violence advocates to network and raise awareness of the realities of domestic violence. The day eventually became a week and then the week eventually became a month full of activities to raise awareness, take action, mourn losses, and celebrate survivors. The NCADV has pushed for legislative action every year such as the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act and the Violence Against Women Acts (VAWA and IVAWA). The first successful legislative action was in 1989. DVAM activities are observed at a national, state, and local level every year. A quick internet search will yield domestic violence shelters and programs that are hosting events throughout the month. Here are some links to get you started:

If you are unable to find local events or wish to host your own, the NCADV offers several suggestions. More time-consuming projects include organizing fundraising events, creating educational displays at public libraries, and contacting local utility companies and businesses to include awareness messages on their monthly statements. Quick ideas include posting shelter wish lists in public places, creating and distributing table tents to spread awareness, and passing out iconic purple ribbons. The NCADV website lists guidelines and ideas here:

The color purple is symbolic of DVAM and has been used on ribbons, clothing, posters, and promotional material for decades. Why purple? The story of the purple ribbon reveals that purple was the favorite color of Lisa Bianco, a domestic violence advocate and survivor. She had escaped and divorced her abusive ex-husband and eventually became the director of a domestic violence program. Sadly, Bianco was murdered by her ex-husband when he was temporarily released from jail. Unfortunately, her story ends the same way as 1/3 of all female homicide victims, by an abusive intimate partner. This data comes from a 2000 FBI Uniform Crime Report. The FBI publishes national crime data, including data on murder victims and their relationship to the murderer. In 2012, out of the 2,834 women who were murdered, 498 were wives and 494 were girlfriends murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. That is 35%, indicating not much has changed since 2000.

The history of domestic violence is long and it was widely accepted until relatively recently. Things began to change with the Women’s Movement in the 1960’s. Now there are numerous resources for straight women who are seeking shelter or to leave their abusive partners. There are far fewer resources for LGBTQ and straight male victims. Regardless of the available resources and positive changes, domestic violence is still an enormous problem that is misunderstood or not talked about. Domestic violence is traditionally considered a women’s issue or a private matter. While women are most often victims of domestic violence they certainly aren’t the only people affected by it, directly or indirectly. As for it being a private matter, isolation is often used by abusers to exert their power and control over the victim. Ignoring domestic violence and remaining silent about it is only helpful to the abuser. Enough is enough. It’s time to speak up and say, “No more!”


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