October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), first observed in 1981 as a national “Day of Unity.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline writes that “Domestic Violence Awareness Month is held each October as a way to unite advocates across the nation in their efforts to end domestic violence. Communities and advocacy organizations … connect with the public and one another throughout the month to raise awareness about the signs of abuse and ways to stop it, and to uplift survivor stories and provide additional resources to leaders and policymakers.”
We would like to highlight and recognize the campaign work of organizations across the country who are pushing for awareness on the critical issue of gender-based violence. Following our acknowledgements, we felt it was increasingly important to provide an overview of what domestic violence (DV) is, how it is defined, and the impacts that it has on survivors and our communities.
Some national DVAM projects
There’s still time to support the efforts of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and their call to action steps and virtual events taking place throughout the rest of October. Visit their website for more information, resources, and to find out how you can join the 2020 #NativeDVAM Campaign to participate in support and solidarity with NIWRC this month!
The Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP), part of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, centers the needs of Black DV survivors in their awareness work. They encourage us to think and talk about what Laura Chow Reeve writes, “What actually keeps us safe? What actually allows survivors and communities to heal and thrive? And what will actually end violence?”
Most importantly, DVAP asks, “What do Black survivors of domestic violence need for emotional and physical safety and well-being?” Check out their DVAM project and campaign, #UnaCosa / #1Thing, to view their action and resource guide, learn how you can participate and play a role in DVAM awareness and prevention efforts, and commit to doing at least “1Thing” to help create safer communities this month!
Some DV definitions
Domestic violence – also called intimate-partner or gender-based violence – has no boundaries. It is found in all walks of life regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) defines DV as “a pattern of behavior that one person in a relationship uses to gain power and control over the other. Abuse is not caused by anger, mental health, substance use, or other common excuses. It’s caused by one person’s belief that they have the right to control their partner (WSCADV, 2018).”
The most common ways that abusers control their partners includes but is not limited to physical violence, sexual assault, psychological and emotional abuse, stalking, domination of finances or family resources, using children, and isolation from family and friends. According to Washington State Law (RCW 26.50.010), the legal definition of domestic violence is:
- Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, sexual assault, or stalking (as defined in RCW 9A.46.110) of one intimate partner by another intimate partner, or
- Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, sexual assault, or stalking (as defined in RCW 9A.46.110) of one family or household member by another family or household member.
The Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence offers a more social and broad definition: “Domestic violence is a pattern of intimidating and coercive behaviors that a person uses to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. … People who are abusive often cause a great deal of physical, emotional, mental, and financial harm to their partners, children, other family members, and to the community as a whole.”
Some stark statistics
The numbers of people affected by domestic violence are staggering. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey – 2010 summary report:
- In the United States, approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men 18 years of age or older experience DV.
- In Washington State, 43% of women have had a lifetime incident of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner; this translates to approximately 443,033 women in King County.
- Approximately 30% of female homicide victims in Washington State are killed by their intimate partners.
- Between January 2017 and 2018, at least 22 deaths were connected to DV in King County.
- Research shows that the presence of a gun in a DV situation increases the risk of homicide against women by 500%.
- 45% of homicides occur within 90 days of a separation – most within the first few days.
- Lastly, DV is the number one reason women and children in King County become homeless.
It is extremely vital and crucial that supportive DV survivor services and agencies are available and accessible. The effects of DV extend beyond the survivor; it impacts their friends, family, and the broader community.
What does DV’s impact look like?
DV is a problem that affects every income level, race, and culture. It is a vastly hidden problem that may only come to light in the most extreme circumstances yet has far-reaching effects for survivors, their children, and society in general.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, violence against women is linked to many long-term health problems including arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, digestive problems such as stomach ulcers, heart problems, irritable bowel syndrome, nightmares, and problems sleeping, migraine headaches, sexual problems (such as pain during sex), stress, and problems with the immune system.
DV can also wreak havoc on the mental health of a survivor. It can lead to depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, sleeping disorders, suicide attempts, poor self-esteem, and more. Survivors may turn to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain they are experiencing and/or become homeless when trying to escape a DV relationship.
A common misconception is that domestic violence presents itself as physical violence only. DV can take many forms, but one common factor is control. A new partner will often look like a perfect partner, being solicitous of you. As you become more involved with them, they may begin to show signs of establishing control, which can come across as “because I love you.” The short video of that name, Because I Love You, illustrates how abusers can use a phrase like “I love you” to justify and excuse their controlling behavior.
Warning signs may include (but are not limited to) when a person:
- rarely sees their friends or family anymore
- hardly shows up places without their partner
- expresses worry about returning home to their partner
- exhibits changes in mental health as a result of ongoing emotional and psychological abuse
Warning signs a partner may be abusive include:
- extreme jealousy and/or possessiveness
- monitoring of their partner
- cruelty to animals
- obstruction of a person’s ability to attend work or school
- controlling what someone wears
- public harassment
- sabotage of birth control methods and reproductive choices
- controlling and monitoring technology use
Can you recognize a DV perpetrator? Maybe, maybe not. Many perpetrators appear to outsiders as nice people, good parents, and loving partners. Many people are surprised to learn that their family member or friend has been abused. DV is about power and control of an intimate partner, and there are signs that can indicate concerns in relationships.
It is likely that someone close to us or in our community may be experiencing DV. If someone discloses that they are experiencing DV, the most important thing is to listen to and believe them.
Learn more about DV with these resources
The Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel and the Intimate Partner Violence Triangle (also linked above) created by NIWRC are two tools to help understand the dynamics of power and control in an abusive relationship. They describe the types of physical and psychological abuse that may be used to maintain power and control over a current or former intimate partner or spouse.
Because I Love You illustrates how abusers can use a phrase like “I love you” to justify and excuse their controlling behavior.
Coercive Control Is Abuse: Walking On Eggshells highlights the voices of survivors talking about DV.
Domestic Violence Help in Seattle/King County
Call 206.299.2500 for Solid Ground’s confidential Domestic Violence shelter services and/or 2.1.1 toll-free at 1.800.621.4636, M-F, 8am-6pm for info about all King County resources.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.7233 or TTY 1.800.787.3224
English – Online chat is available 24/7/365.
Español – Póngase en contacto con nuestros asesores altamente capacitados las 24 horas, 7 días de la semana y reciba el apoyo que merece. Chat en Español esta disponible cada cuando el botón de chat está en rojo.