If you’ve been paying attention to the media lately, it’s likely that you’ve been hearing and reading a lot of stories regarding domestic abuse and domestic violence. With hashtags and campaigns such as #WhyIStayed, this very serious issue has received some well-deserved attention and even encouraged women to take a stand for themselves.
While it may be difficult for those who haven’t suffered domestic abuse to understand or relate to the victims, the fact is the cycle of abuse is far more common than many people realize. In fact, it’s estimated that one in four women suffer from domestic abuse and one in three teen girls will be physically assaulted by a boyfriend. Though it may not be apparent, these women are our sisters, our friends, our neighbors, that familiar face you see at Starbucks every morning. In Dallas alone, the police department receives 20,000 domestic violence calls each year. Many women don’t even report the abuse because they fear for their safety or because they don’t associate their abuser with a violent person.
To truly make a difference and help a potential victim, it’s important to understand what domestic abuse is. Domestic abuse occurs when a person applies control and power over another person through intentional behavior. This type of abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal. Within each of these categories, there are a number of specific behaviors and actions, detailed by Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support. We encourage everyone to get acquainted with these behaviors to be able to detect the signs.
The first step in helping someone who you believe may be the victim of domestic abuse is, as uncomfortable as it may be, opening a dialogue with the victim. Be prepared for the possibility that the potential victim may not be ready to admit that she’s involved in an abusive relationship. Experts also stress the importance of just listening to the victim and letting her know it’s not her fault. Once she is willing to acknowledge the problem, offer support by helping her locate and contact a woman’s shelter. Genesis is one here in Dallas that we partner with to provide health care services.
If you don’t know someone suffering from domestic abuse, you can still make a difference! There are multiple programs for members of the community to get involved with and help take a stand on this important issue. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – let’s band together to make really an impact!