Domestic Violence Awareness Month is important: Here's how you can participate
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) is a yearly event dedicated to remembering those lost to abuse, advocating for survivors, and networking for change. This national campaign takes place each year in October to connect advocates working to end violence within the home. It is a chance for people to learn more about the effects of domestic violence, spread awareness, and take action, and there are several ways you can get involved in your community.
What is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) was founded by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in October 1981. Originally called the "Day of Unity," the occasion went on to be a week of local, state, and national events before eventually becoming a month-long campaign.
The first DVAM was held in October of 1987, the same year the first national toll-free domestic violence hotline was launched. The US Congress legally designated October Domestic Violence Awareness Month two years later.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is violence inflicted by a family, intimate partner, or another person close to a survivor, involving an unfair and abusive power dynamic. Domestic violence affects many families and does not only refer to physical violence. It can also encompass threats, stalking, emotional and verbal abuse, forced sex, and financial manipulation.
Domestic violence statistics
Domestic violence affects millions of people each year and has far-reaching consequences for those experiencing it, their families, and their communities. Information from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey shows that, on average, 20 people per minute experience physical violence by an intimate partner in the US.
Research shows that domestic violence from intimate partners affects people of all identities and ages. One in four LGBT individuals experience domestic violence. In addition, children are frequently affected by domestic violence. By some estimates, as many as 45 million children are affected by direct abuse or witnessing violence.
Domestic violence can be a widespread challenge because individuals may not know what to do if they suspect someone is experiencing abuse. Additionally, some survivors do not seek medical care for injuries and are afraid to leave the relationship with their abuser. For this reason, awareness is often essential.
How to participate in Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Whether you're interested in learning more about domestic violence issues, spreading awareness, or helping organizations take action, you can get involved with the cause in several ways. Below are five suggestions for participating in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
1. Wear purple
Domestic violence awareness has often been represented by a purple ribbon, which symbolizes the bravery and strength of survivors of domestic violence and those who have lost their lives to abuse. Consider wearing a purple ribbon as a way of raising awareness during DVAM. Accessories like purple bracelets or necklaces may also be an option.
2. Attend a public awareness event
If you're passionate about ending domestic violence, consider attending an awareness event. These events are put on to educate people in the community about the prevalence of domestic violence, encourage action, and help those experiencing abuse learn about the resources and options available to them.
If there are no events near you, consider launching your own. A public awareness campaign could involve something as complex as a large-scale gathering or as simple as a series of flyers displayed in the community. A few examples of established public awareness campaigns include the following:
- Purple ribbon campaign: During a purple ribbon campaign, sponsors put tables and stations around the community (in businesses, schools, etc.). The goal is to give out purple ribbons and inform the public about domestic violence.
- Brides' March: The Brides' March is an event that has taken place all over the US, aiming to raise awareness about domestic violence while remembering the lives of those lost to abuse. Participants wear wedding dresses or black to symbolize loss and mourning.
- Clothesline project: The Clothesline Project is an event where participants decorate t-shirts and hang them on clotheslines for the public to see. The colors of the t-shirts are coded to represent different types of experienced violence.
- Silent Witness Exhibit: Silent Witness exhibits are community-held displays that aim to promote awareness around domestic violence by honoring and remembering the names and stories of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence.
3. Spread the word
Domestic Violence Awareness Month can offer a moment to start a conversation about domestic violence. You can spread the word by connecting with media outlets or using social media to inform people about the importance of domestic violence awareness. You can also spread awareness by wearing purple and telling people you know and meet about the reasons behind the color choice.
If you choose the social media route, use research-backed information, and give vetted resources. Think about your goals, what platforms might be most effective (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and how best to get your message across. You can use hashtags like #DVAM and #PurpleOctober to make it easy for people to find and connect with your posts. You can also look at what hashtags local and national organizations promote for DVAM.
One way to take direct action during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and all year) is by volunteering. Volunteering can be an effective way of giving your time to the cause and making a difference in the lives of people who experience domestic violence. Shelters, hotlines, and similar organizations can be ideal places to get involved firsthand, support others, and better understand survivors' challenges. Organizations like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offer volunteer opportunities in person and virtually.
5. Tell your story
If you have been affected by domestic violence, telling your story may inspire another survivor to seek support. Telling your story can also help people who have not experienced domestic violence understand the importance of rallying for change and connecting with the cause.
Many platforms and channels are available to talk about your experiences, and you can also tell them your story at an event. However, putting yourself out there and talking about your experiences can be difficult, so give yourself space if you're not ready or don't want to tell your story to an audience now or in the future.
Processing the effects of violence with a professional
Domestic violence can have lifelong impacts on survivors. For this reason, reaching out to a professional can be beneficial if you've been impacted by domestic violence. If you're unsure if you're ready for in-person care with a provider, you can also reach support online.
Studies show online therapy can help individuals process their emotions and relieve trauma symptoms following domestic violence. In a study on the efficacy of online therapy for survivors of intimate partner violence, researchers found that this form of treatment led to significant improvements in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study notes that online therapy can benefit survivors of intimate partner violence because it helps them overcome specific barriers to treatment, including stigma, convenience issues, and safety concerns.
Online therapy can provide you with the tools and guidance to talk about challenges like domestic violence, trauma, or other mental health-related concerns. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can contact your therapist outside of sessions. In these cases, if you have a trauma-related question or want to clarify a point made during therapy, you can send your therapist a message, and they'll respond when they can.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or have left an abusive relationship, know that many resources are available. National hotlines, support groups, and online counseling services can help you take the next steps toward a safe home environment and a healthy, happy life.
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