In an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence in the U.S. and across the globe, October has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This time of the year is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of these issues, share resources, and most importantly, support survivors. But, while it’s a great time to do so, it isn’t the only time.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month — How Far We’ve Come
Since the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, justice for women in abusive situations has strengthened. This landmark legislation, led by then-Senator Joe Biden, combined new provisions that hold offenders accountable and provide programs and services for victims.
For example, the act led to the creation of the Office on Violence Against Women, whose 25 grant programs support domestic violence shelters, sexual assault crisis centers and hotlines, and legal support for victims, among many other programs. As a result, between 1994 and 2010, the overall rate of domestic violence dropped nearly two-thirds, and state laws have reformed to address issues such as dating abuse in the workplace, stalking, employment discrimination and more.
While we’ve made strides, there’s still much to be done, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a great time to realign and focus on these issues. We continue to be flooded with news stories about domestic violence, from athletes beating their significant others in public elevators to celebrities publicly abusing their girlfriends.
This problem is not one that will go away quickly or quietly. Domestic violence continues to affect millions, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture and status. Thirty-five percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence (or a combination), according to the United Nations.
How You Can Make a Difference Before, During, and After Domestic Violence Awareness Month
If you know or suspect that someone is a victim of domestic violence, you might feel clueless about the best way to help. But don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing prevent you from reaching out. And, if you don’t have any personal reasons to help, don’t think you have to sit on the sideline.
The world for many domestic abuse victims can be lonely, isolated, and filled with fear. Knowing there are people out there willing to help them can provide tremendous relief. Here are a few ways to get involved:
March to heighten awareness about domestic violence
Hundreds of the cities have marches or rallies for the cause in the month of October. Many include a drumming circle and candlelight vigils honoring victims and survivors of domestic violence. Check out local events near you and plan to get involved.
Educate yourself on the signs of abuse
Rarely, if ever, do we hear about domestic abuse from our friends — even though statistically we may know plenty of people who have suffered domestic abuse. Educating yourself on the signs of abuse might save a friend or family member’s life. Here are a few of the signs that medical professionals say to watch out for.
Be a source of comfort
You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference — you just have to be yourself. If someone shares their experience with you, it’s because you are a person they look to for support, compassion, and guidance. Although you can’t take away what happened to someone, you can be a source of comfort.
Donate whatever goods you can
Domestic violence survivors who leave an abuser often have little more than the clothes on their backs. In fact, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for families across the nation. Donations of cash or household goods, uniforms, toys and small appliances can make a big difference.
For example, the National Domestic Hotline is looking for donations of financial contributions and old cell phones. If you shop online, you can also click a button that will automatically donate a small portion of your purchase to the cause through Amazon Smile and Ebay Giving Works Program. Similarly, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is looking for financial contributions and old cell phones, and offers a shop with items displaying their logo to raise awareness. Also, check with your local shelter to see how you can help.
Remember, You Don’t Have to Suffer Alone
If you are a victim of abuse or violence at the hands of someone you know or love, or you are recovering from an assault by a stranger, you are not alone. Get immediate help and support.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).