The Public Health Crisis Hiding in Plain Sight: Domestic Violence

How Awareness and Action Can Create Positive Social Change During Domestic Violence Awareness Month

We see a lot of pink ribbons at this time of the year, but you may not know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) has been observed nationally since 1987. The purpose of DVAM is to celebrate survivors, mourn those who lost their lives to domestic violence, and raise awareness and work together to end domestic violence in our communities.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, gender identity, income, sexual orientation, religion, size, or place of residence.

Domestic violence affects people we know — family members, coworkers, neighbors and friends. Domestic violence is, at its core, about power and control. Survivors may experience physical, emotional or psychological abuse that creates lifelong effects.

Do you think domestic violence doesn’t pertain to you? By conservative estimates, we know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetimes. This means that several people you know are impacted by domestic violence, even if you don’t think they are. Domestic violence hides in plain sight and abusers often go to great lengths to hide the damage they do.

Domestic violence is a public health emergency, just like opiods, smoking and cancer. Post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injury, depression, hypertension, heart disease, addiction, sexual assault, miscarriage, cancer and disability are all extremely prevalent among survivors. Domestic violence is also the number one cause of homelessness among women and a high contributing factor to homelessness among families with children.

And that’s just the survivors who make it out alive. On average, 55 percent of homicides of women in related to domestic violence. Every day an average of three women are killed by their intimate partner. It’s not just the partner who is in danger: children, neighbors, coworkers, law enforcement and pets are often killed as part of an attack against the perpetrator’s intimate partner.

Children are not immune. Annually, 1 in 15 children witness domestic violence in their home. In an estimated 30 to 60 percent of cases, the children are also subject to abuse from the perpetrator. This exposes children to an increased risk of abuse later in life and leads to a lifetime of toxic stress, which negatively affects physical and mental health, learning, and emotional development.

Here are some things you can do to help eliminate domestic violence in your community:

  • Start By Believing: When someone tells you they have experienced domestic violence, believe them. Don’t down play it, don’t try to explain it away, trust that they are the expert in their own experience.
  • Be An Ally: Learn more about domestic violence. National or state organizations can help you better understand domestic violence and its impact. Speak out against domestic violence. Encourage your elected officials to do more to prevent violence. Spread the word.
  • Be Compassionate: Domestic violence is complicated, and it can often take multiple attempts before a person can leave the relationship, if ever. You never know how you would react in the same situation, so be there for people in your life who experience domestic violence without judgement or expectation.
  • Participate in a community event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Most communities have events planned — show your support and learn more. For more information on events in your area, visit this Domestic Violence Awareness Month website (DVAM).
  • Support a domestic violence organization with time or money: Volunteer. Make in-kind donations. Provide domestic violence agencies with the funds they need to help survivors start new lives. To find an organization in your area check out the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) webpage.
  • Engage in safety planning: The MyPlan app helps friends, family members and those experiencing domestic violence to explore safety options and plan for ways to be safe. You can access this completely confidential tool at the MyPlan webpage.
  • Call for help: You are not alone. If you feel unsafe and need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799–7233.

Help end domestic violence. Bring it out into the open, be an advocate and make a different today.

Written by

Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit or follow @authorrosebak on social media.

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