October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Awareness of Domestic Violence is critical; trying to stop domestic violence is a daunting task. But awareness and advocacy is at least a beginning. There are numerous outlets for people who need help. But first, it is important to understand what “domestic violence” is. According to DomesticViolence.org, “Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.”
Control is a key word in abusive relationships. Examples of abuse vary; criminal abuse includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced), and stalking. “Although emotional, psychological, and financial abuses are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.”
“Some other examples of abuse include name-calling or putdowns, keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends, withholding money, stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job, actual or threatened physical harm, sexual assault, stalking, and intimidation.”
You may be surprised how many women in the United States have been abused, physically or sexually and typically from their husband or boyfriend. According to www.thehotline.org, “Many statistics show that 1 in 4 women will be abused in their lifetime. Despite this high number, abuse is still a taboo subject.” Abuse may not always be obvious, as in the case of physical abuse. If someone thinks they are being abused, controlled, or threatened, then they should seek help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799- SAFE (7233).
Actress Mariska Hargitay, from Law and Order Special Victims Unit television series, founded “Joyful Heart” in 2004 with the intention of helping survivors heal and reclaim their lives. “Today, Joyful Heart's mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.” A community needs to be empowered through “knowledge, courage, and compassion” and support survivors. The cycle of violence and abuse needs to end. (www.joyfulheartfoundation.org)
Abuse can be subtle or extreme. Abuse, however, is never your fault. People have a right to be in a safe and healthy relationship. Domestic violence is not just an argument once in awhile. Domestic violence is an ongoing type of behavior, a pattern, involving control in a relationship. Control is expressed through force, fear, pressure, and/or intimidation. For more information, and a list of abusive type of behaviors, go to www.dayoneny.org.
If you think you are being abused, know you are in an abusive relationship, or know someone else who needs help, then contact your local hotline. In the Lehigh Valley, victims may seek help at Turning Point of Lehigh Valley - call 610-437-3369 http://www.turningpointlv.org/ They have a 24 hour hotline which is a constant resource for victims, their families, and their friends. Turning Point offers a helpline, counseling, shelter, court advocacy, education, children’s programming, traditional programming, and prevention programs. “We empower victims of domestic violence by providing shelter with support services to victims and minor children.”
Violence is a crime. If you need immediate help, then dial 911. Or if injured, go to your nearest emergency department.
Remember, everyone has a right to be in a safe, healthy, and loving relationship. You are not alone.
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