Recently, I pulled up a slide presentation for a training I lead for staff here at Family Care Network about Intimate Partner Violence. In my effort to refresh the slides and update statistical information, I was reminded that October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In providing this training to my colleagues, I sometimes preface my presentation by stating that although I did not learn what I am sharing in college or at an institute, I feel that I have expertise in the subject of Domestic Violence because I lived it. As a child who grew up in an abusive home where the cycle of violence played out over and over again with the abuse becoming increasingly worse over the years, sometimes I feel as if I have earned a degree in the subject from the school of hard knocks.
During the course of the training, I allude to the fact that someone in the room might also have intimate knowledge of this subject as they are currently or have been in an abusive relationship themselves or have experienced similar circumstances. Chances are that either someone we know or even ourselves have been touched by this complex, painful topic. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced physical violence or some form of IPV by an intimate partner, at some point in their lifetime.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) describes Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner. As we mark this month of awareness, I find myself saddened by statistics and stories in the news that report the devastating impact that Intimate Partner Violence can have in our world. Did you know that nearly three women are murdered every day in the United States by a current or former partner? (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
At this time, we remember Karen Smith, a teacher at a San Bernardino elementary school who was shot dead in her classroom by her former partner in April of 2017. The perpetrator also shot two children in the classroom, killing an 8 year old boy and wounding a 9 year old.
Tragically, abusive relationships can turn deadly at any time and all too often children can be innocent victims who suffer from physical injuries, symptoms or trauma and even lose their lives when caught in the line of Intimate Partner Violence.
“One in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence,” according to the US Department of Justice Office, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention-2011.
These vulnerable children are often limited in the capacity to protect themselves when the adults in their lives are engaged in this cycle of abuse. The effect on children can vary dependent upon the level of exposure (intensity, frequency and duration), what protective factors the children have, what coping skills they are able to utilize, and their exposure to natural supports which can provide them a buffer from the stress and anxiety that may result from exposure to abuse. But make no mistake, exposure to Intimate Partner Violence by a child is child abuse and cannot be tolerated.
As we mark another Domestic Violence Awareness month, where we spotlight this serious societal and health problem, I urge you to take action in your community. Here are some ways you can help:
- Donate your time, money or resources to organizations which aid survivors of abuse and promote prevention
- Wear purple on October 19! Every year advocates, survivors and supporters wear purple to stand in solidarity with victims of domestic violence and celebrate domestic violence awareness month. Wear purple, urge your friends and coworkers to wear purple, and post a photo on social media with #PurpleThursday and #DVAM to join the movement.
- Post the National Domestic Violence Hotline on your social media (1-800-799-7233).
If you need further information or support please reach out to The National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or our local services at RISE 855-886-RISE (7473) or The Women’s Shelter Program Crisis Line: (805) 781-6400.
Together, we can not only shed light on this critical issue but we can empower others to seek help, to find hope and to break free!