October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is an annual national event recognizes and mourns victims, celebrates survivors and aims to make a change in the culture of violence that perpetuates domestic violence.
Domestic violence affects everyone. One in four women; and one in seven men have been victims of domestic violence in their lifetimes. But what does that really mean? It doesn’t mean that domestic violence happens only in movies or documentaries, or when some high-profile celebrity gets “caught” being an abuser.
Domestic violence happens to our friends, our co-workers, our family members, the cashier that helped you at Starbucks or Walmart today. Domestic violence happens to those in affluent communities, the LGBTQ community, all races, all cultures. Domestic violence has no boundaries and can happen to anyone.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Many of us identify domestic violence as when a person has bruises, marks or a black eye. But domestic violence is so much more. Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. It can happen in many ways. Certainly, physical abuse is the most common form of domestic violence. It can include any form of physical abuse such as shoving, pushing, slapping, strangling, pinching or hair pulling. But it can also happen in other ways such as sexual abuse in a relationship, emotional and psychological abuse and economic abuse. Domestic abuse can happen to someone right in front of our eyes without us even being aware.
IT’S A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM IN SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina is currently ranked #5 in the country for the highest rate of women killed by men. In the past 20 years that the Violence Policy Center has been collecting this type of data, South Carolina has always ranked in the top ten. For the last six out of seven years, South Carolina has consistently ranked in the top five. Unfortunately, South Carolina has held the #1 spot numerous times.
HOPEFUL HORIZONS’ IMPACT
In 2019, Hopeful Horizons served 1,389 survivors of abuse and violence. Hopeful Horizons provided emergency shelter for 78 women and 64 children totaling 3,946 nights of safety.
Hopeful Horizons therapists helped 184 adult domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Eighty-five adults were provided with emotional support and safety services by our Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Advocates.
Of the women who stayed at Hopeful Horizons’ Emergency Shelter in 2019, 35 percent said their abuser threatened to take their children from them; 42 percent reported injuries that required medical treatment by a medical professional; 75 percent said that their abuser discouraged them from having relationships with friends and family; 56 percent reported their abuser discouraged them from attending school or having a job.
These statistics show that abuse and violence can happen anywhere. Even here in the Lowcountry.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Believe Survivors: We owe it to survivors to believe them when they tell us about their abuse. We also have a responsibility be non-judgmental. We should not ignore their abuse because it’s too painful for us personally. We should not sweep their abuse aside because it’s none of our business. We all must make it our goal to believe and to support someone who is in an abusive relationship.
Inform Survivors There are Services Available: As a community we must be vigilant in supporting those around us if we want to truly support those experiencing domestic violence. It is important to be aware of Hopeful Horizons and the individualized case management services it offers to assist domestic abuse survivors in achieving lives free from abuse. The Hopeful Horizons staff can talk with the survivor in an open and non-judgmental way that will empower her to make the best decision for her unique life situation.
Encourage Healthy Relationships: As a community, we must support of victims of domestic abuse by challenging cultural norms of gender-based expectations such as “what is the role of a real man?” or “what is the role of women?” We must start supporting those that fight for equality and fairness in our society. We must start changing our attitudes and relationship expectations. We must start believing and listening to those who say either verbally, or non-verbally that they are hurting. We need to teach a new generation of youth how to show respect and love regardless of differences. It should be our mission to show them what healthy relationships look like.
Help Survivors Achieve Peace Through Healing: If someone confides in you that they are being abused, it’s a big step. It’s very important to remain non-judgmental and encourage them to get professional help. Show your support and believe their story. Listen to their story and remember there are different types of domestic abuse other than physical violence. Believe her. Listen to her. Be non-judgmental.
In recognition of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let us make it our number one goal to support survivors. Let us focus on upgrading our culture and recognizing the signs of domestic violence. Let us recognize that domestic violence is a public health crisis that must end. Let us teach a new generation about healthy relationships which will hopefully one day move towards ending domestic violence permanently.