Strength in Numbers: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

hands stacked togetherViolence in domestic partnerships is an issue garnering widespread attention in October, which has officially been dubbed Domestic Violence Awareness Month since 1987. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) observed the first Day of Unity in October 1981 with the intention of connecting activists and advocates who were devoting their time and energy to ending violence against women and their children. Honoring this day paved the way for an entire month to be devoted each year to this important issue that affects millions of lives.

According to the NCADV website, “One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime, and on average, three women are killed every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.”

Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, results in physical and psychological trauma to victims as well as to those who witness the abuse as children, siblings, mothers, fathers, coworkers, neighbors, and friends.

Research and data published by the NCADV includes the following statistics:

  • An estimated 1.3 million women experience physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
  • 85% of those who experience domestic violence are women.
  • Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.
  • Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
  • Intimate partner violence results in more than 18.5 million mental health care visits each year.
  • Almost one third of female homicide victims reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.

Giving survivors the opportunity to see that they are not alone and inspiring community support and activism regarding this destructive, potentially fatal societal trend is the driving force behind Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Survivors of Domestic Violence: More than Meets the Eye

In the wake of violent incidents, the physical injury and harm inflicted can leave scars that reach far beneath the surface; for many victims, recovering from the devastating psychological effects of abuse requires professional help.

Silvia M. Dutchevici, LCSW and founder of the Critical Therapy Center in New York City, NY, has been working with survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence for over 10 years, and has experience managing crisis shelters in New York City. Her background and studies in psychotherapy have focused on trauma, particularly torture relating to political and religious persecution, refugees, and war-related tragedies.

However, in her early years of studying, she says, “I realized that the most common posttraumatic stress [issues] are those not of men in war, but of women in civilian life, particularly domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, and other forms of torture that happen behind closed doors and in our homes.” She adds, “Because they are so intimate and personal, we shy away from exposing or talking about them—adding even more layers to the trauma.”

Among the many mental health concerns associated with domestic violence are depression and posttraumatic stress, and Dutchevici cites new research that reveals a slew of additional symptoms and conditions that may arise in situations of abuse. “Women survivors might suffer from anxiety…, eating disorders, substance abuse, obsessive compulsive [issues], suicidal ideation, as well as physical symptoms . . . as a result of the physical abuse and sometimes sexual abuse,” she says. “Battered women are at an extraordinarily high risk for STDs because they are frequently unable to negotiate the practice of safe sex with their partners and are often subject to forced, unprotected sex.”

Dutchevici likens the symptoms of those who have experienced the trauma of domestic violence to those who have endured torture; those who have been victimized often need intensive therapy to recover. “Survivors benefit [from] and need individualized traditional counseling, where they can understand, process, and heal from their trauma,” she shares. And yet, she says, “They also need something more.”

Through listening to the stories of survivors, she has come to believe, “The essential part of healing is having someone to share the story of abuse with, and to learn a new way of relating to another while analyzing power within relationships.” In her practice, she employs the concept of critical therapy, which “combines modern psychoanalytic techniques with the theory and practice of liberation psychology and critical pedagogy to pursue empowerment, liberation, and healing.” Group therapy, where survivors can find understanding and support, is also very helpful, she adds.

NO MORE PSA Campaign Created to Support and Save

The statistics regarding the frequency of domestic or intimate partner violence are alarming. NOMORE.org reports that “12.7 million people are physically abused, raped, or stalked by their partners in one year.” In an effort to broaden the scope and reach of the movement to raise awareness about domestic violence, the NO MORE public service announcement (PSA) campaign was created.

The three-year PSA campaign was developed with input from domestic violence and sexual assault organizations like NCADV, and consists of a collection of videos featuring 50 celebrities and public figures advocating for “no more” violence, sexual harassment, and abuse. The videos focus primarily on crimes against women, since statistics report that women most often experience or report these experiences.

The NO MORE campaign advocates for doing away with phrases like:

  • “She was asking for it.”
  • “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
  • “Boys will be boys.”
  • “He said he was sorry.”
  • “It’s none of my business.”

The overarching message of the videos, directed by actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay, is “No more excuses. No more silence. No more violence.”

Upcoming Partner Violence Web Conference at GoodTherapy.org

As part of our effort to prevent domestic and intimate partner violence, GoodTherapy.org will be hosting a “Partner Violence: Implications for Counseling” continuing education web conference on November 22, 2013. The conference will be presented by Dr. Candy H. Ratliff, EdD and LPC, and intends to assist therapists in recognizing and identifying risk factors for partner abuse, selecting and making use of appropriate treatment modalities for victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence, and describing health outcomes for those victimized.

If you’d like to make a donation in support of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) through GoodCause, click here.

References:

  1. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf
  2. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Domestic Violence Facts. Retrieved from http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf

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  • 4 comments
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  • june

    October 23rd, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    This has to be about sharing a common goal and spreading a common message- that this is unacceptable, that this has to stop, and that women (and men) are not going to put up with this kind of bully behavior anymore

  • Victoria

    October 23rd, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    It’s sad that this critical issue that affects so many is so often swept under the rug or just in general overshadowed by those issues which are given more airtime or which have more star power behind them. This is serious and many people lose their lives every year as a result of being a victim of domestic violence. I have seenfar many lives hurt because of this. The time for sitting quietly and hoping that it will go away is long past.

  • justine

    October 24th, 2013 at 3:58 AM

    does anyone else ever have these fears that making something into a “month” kind of increases our conversation about it for a few weeks and then it’s like we put that away until the same time rolls around again next year?
    I think that we all know that domestic violence can’t be like that, given the level of danger that many find them in daily as a result f that violence at home.

  • Roxanne

    October 28th, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    Those numbers cited at the beginning of this article are frightening. one in four? That’s crazy!

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