by Comprehensive Staff
Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the “Day of Unity” held in October 1981 by the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. The “Day of Unity” evolved into a week, and in October of 1987, the first National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) was observed.
Programs in Washington State have begun referring to DVAM as Domestic Violence Action Month, using the national campaign not only for awareness, but to inspire individuals to take action to eradicate domestic violence within our communities.
Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), is common and affects millions of people in the United States each year. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) indicates:
· 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the US have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
· Over 43 million women and 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
· On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, an average of close to 15 calls every minute.
· Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
· The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%.
· 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.
Comprehensive Healthcare’s Aspen Victim Advocacy Services program in Kittitas County addresses sexual assault and intimate partner domestic violence by providing services to victims and non- offending family members. Advocates are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Dawn Brumfield, program manager for Aspen Victim Advocacy Services in Kittitas County explained how for many, home is a place of love, warmth, and comfort, but unfortunately is not a safe place for those experiencing domestic abuse. “Home is s somewhere that you know you will be surrounded by care and support, and a nice little break from the busyness of the real world. But for millions of others, home is anything but a sanctuary,” she said.
She also explained that there are a number of ways the community can support survivors of domestic violence and healthy relationships. These ways include simply raising awareness, encouraging friends and family members to have conversations about their relationships and supporting someone experiencing abuse. According to Brumfield, if someone suspects there may be domestic violence situation in the home of a friend or family member, do not be afraid to ask a person if they are being harmed. She also says it is important to listen intently and continue to stay connected to that person.
“Survivors often tell us that they wish they had someone in their life that was there for them. A survivor will frequently reach out to their friends and family first before law enforcement, and the response of their friend or family member could be the most impactful one,” said Brumfield.
She advises, if someone shares that they are in a domestic violence situation, ask questions, listen, and stay connected. They can also be directed to Aspen at Comprehensive Healthcare.
“A survivor needs someone who is non-judgmental to lean on, to receive support from and to talk to. Sometimes asking a question and really caring about the answer is the most powerful thing you can do. Every interaction an Aspen Advocate has with a survivor starts with, “How can I help?”
In 2018, Aspen received 1,511 calls to their hotline for intimate partner violence, and provided protected housing for 14 adults and 18 children. Aspen advocates also work closely with local law enforcement and are available to offer support throughout the legal process.
Community members can support domestic violence survivors by supporting a local advocacy program like Aspen including becoming a volunteer advocate, wearing a purple ribbon or asking a local business to display a sign. (A resource for signs can be found here: http://wscadv.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/DVAM-Business-Taking-Action-sign.pdf).
The Friends & Family Guide, published by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is a very helpful tool for individuals who think their friend or loved one is being harmed by an intimate partner. It can be viewed here: https://wscadv.org/resources/friends-family-guide/.
If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or other forms of domestic abuse, Aspen Victim Advocacy Services provides local, free and confidential assistance. They can be reached at (509) 925-9384, and their offices are located at 220 W 4th Ave, Ellensburg. Visit www.comphc.org to learn more about their program and services.