October is domestic violence awareness month, and although this is a heavy topic, it is important to raise awareness of such an important issue. This year is particularly important to focus on as lockdowns from the Coronavirus have increased the frequency of domestic violence cases not just locally, but worldwide. COVID-19 has caused major economic devastation, disconnected many from community resources and support systems, and created widespread uncertainty and panic. Such conditions may stimulate violence in families where it didn’t exist before and worsen situations in homes where mistreatment and violence has been a problem.
The following statistics on domestic violence (or intimate partner violence) can be triggering, and have therefore been italicized. If you do not feel like reading statistics related to domestic violence, please skip over this italicized part. According to CDC, approximately 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Moreover, more than 43 million women and 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Approximately 41% of female IPV survivors and 14% of male IPV survivors experience some form of physical injury related to IPV. It is important to acknowledge that IPV can extend beyond physical injury and result in death. Data from U.S. crime reports suggest that 16% (about 1 in 6) of homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. IPV has been associated with many negative physical and mental health outcomes and health risk behaviors among women of all backgrounds.
If you personally know somebody involved in a domestic violence situation, you may feel helpless in assisting them. However, there are some steps you can take to try to assist them in the safest way possible:
Know the Signs
Awareness is the first step of any intervention. Someone you know might not blatantly come out and tell you that they are being abused by a partner, so it may be essential to keep an eye out for things like:
- Excuses for injuries
- Personality changes, like low self-esteem in someone who was always confident
- Constantly checking in with their partner
- Never having money on hand
- Overly worried about pleasing their partner
- Skipping out on work, school, or social outings for no clear reason
- Wearing clothes that don’t fit the season, like long sleeves in summer to cover bruises
(Research has shown that these signs are similar for both men and women in a domestic violence household.)
Signs for the LGBTQIA+ community may also be similar, but may also include more targeting of sexual orientation or gender identity, such as:
- Make excuses for abuse, like it’s just how men are or that you wanted it to happen
- Tell you that police or others won’t help because of your gender or orientation
- Tell you that you’re not really how you identify
- Threaten to out you to family, friends, and others
Be An Ally
As an ally, you can provide information and resources to those in need. You can share New York State’s 24/7, free and confidential Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline number (1-800-942-6906) to someone you think may need someone to talk to. You can also believe a friend or loved one and listen without judgment; validation can go a very long way. You can also try to encourage workplaces to adopt a policy to improve protections for victims and you can do your best to support local domestic violence programs. Check out https://www.nyscadv.org/find-help/program-directory.html for a directory of domestic violence programs in New York State.
National Wear Purple Day
National Wear Purple Day is a day to spread awareness about domestic violence and intimate partner violence. This year’s national “Wear Purple Day” is Thursday, Oct. 22, so please wear purple and encourage others to do the same. You can even send photos of you, your colleagues, friends and family, your workplace, community groups, your pets and others to firstname.lastname@example.org and the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (NYSOPDV) will share them on their social media sites.
For ideas about how to raise awareness and for information about how to help others, you can visit the NYSOPDV online toolkit of free resources designed for everyone – from workplaces to government agencies to individuals and communities. You can find this toolkit at https://opdv.ny.gov/public_awareness/campaigns/shinethelight/shinethelight-current.html.
Be Supportive and Listen
Unfortunately there will be instances of domestic violence cases where all you can do is provide a listening ear. Use the following tips to support someone you think may be being abused by a partner:
- Ask if anything is wrong
- Talk specifically about what concerns you
- Listen carefully
- Let the person know you’re always there to talk and that your conversations are always private
- Offer to help
- Support the person’s choices
The following are some websites that provide more resources for Domestic Violence:
By, Marion R. White, MHC-LP, EAP Counselor