October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Talking about domestic violence can be difficult because, the truth is, domestic violence is very complex. There are a lot of misconceptions, so let’s start by looking at some basics. Here are some facts you may not know about domestic violence.
Domestic violence is common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in four women in the United States experience domestic violence by a spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life. In fact, domestic violence impacts 20 people per minute in this country.
Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate; people from any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, and gender can be victims. Sadly, it occurs more often than we like to even think. Among youth in Thurston County, one in 10 middle and high school-aged youth have recently experienced dating violence.
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Domestic violence isn’t always physical. Physical violence is one of many forms of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a behavior or act that is designed to gain power and control over one’s intimate partner. An intimate partner may use violence or intimidation that is reinforced by other manipulative and coercive tactics to ensure that his or her victim behaves in a certain way. Abuse can inflicted through emotional, financial and/or sexual behaviors.
A victim of domestic violence can’t always leave. Ending a relationship is never easy, and it’s even harder if you’ve been isolated from your family and friends and are being mentally, physically or sexually threatened. Escaping abuse can be very dangerous. Creating a safety plan is extremely important because when a victim leaves, they threaten the power of the abusive partner. This often results in retaliation, which is why it’s so important to plan for safety when seeking help or leaving an abusive relationship.
Domestic violence is not a private issue. It’s everybody’s business, and it can affect you at work or in your neighborhood, even if you are not the direct victim. Domestic violence affects not just the person being abused, but others as well. Children that are exposed to domestic violence have significant physical, mental and emotional harm that can result in long-term health conditions that can last well into adulthood. Between 3 million and 10 million children and adolescents witness violence in their homes each year.
You are not alone. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling SafePlace at 360-754-6300.
Domestic violence is a serious, yet preventable public health issue. Many in our community are working together to protect victims and prevent further abuse. The Thurston Thrives Child and Youth Resilience Action Team has made reducing domestic violence and child abuse one of its long term goals. Thurston County also has the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Task Force that works “to strengthen Thurston County’s ability to end sexual and domestic violence.”
If you are worried about someone you love and want to talk to someone, call the Safeplace 24-hour helpline at 360-754-6300. If you need legal help, call the Thurston County Family Justice Center at 360-754-9297. You can also find information at safeplaceolympia.org or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and thehotline.org.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.