By DAVID LOPEZ
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an issue affecting millions of individuals and families in the United States every year. According to the National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, approximately 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US, equating to more than 10 million women and men annually. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, around 34% of women and 35% of men in Texas experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape, or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. For National Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, Texans are encouraged to stand up for DV victims and raise awareness about the traumatic events that victims endure.
October was declared a national awareness month in 1989 in recognition of domestic violence victims and their families. National DVAM helps educate families and communities about the dangers of domestic violence. It also helps spread prevention strategies to equip victims, survivors, and their loved ones with the tools to seek help and break free from the power and control of their abusers.
Domestic violence, also defined as intimate partner violence, encompasses sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking experienced by a partner in an intimate relationship. Abusive behaviors indicative of domestic violence include jealousy, control, manipulation, humiliation, physical threats, and emotional, verbal, psychological, and economic abuse.
Domestic violence is usually described as a cycle. Victims of DV, family violence, or abuse growing up are more likely to endure domestic violence in future partnerships. Teen dating violence (TDV) is one outcome of exposure to violence and a risk factor for DV in adulthood. According to a survey conducted by the CDC, about 1 in 11 female and 1 in 15 male high school students experienced physical dating violence at some point in their young adulthood.
The cycle of domestic violence also refers to a pattern of behaviors and events that occur within an abusive partnership. The cycle rotates from the calm phase, where the abusive partner exhibits loving and caring behaviors; to the tension phase, where small fights occur and anxiety grows; to the crisis phase, where the abuser erupts and takes their anger and frustration out on the victim. This sequence of events continues until the victim is able to get help and leave the partnership for good.
In families with an abusive parent, children are also at risk. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to the acts of violence. Domestic violence is also more likely to occur in tandem with forms of child abuse, maltreatment, and neglect. Co-occurring abuse only reinforces a cycle of violence and increases the likelihood that children will experience abuse in their young adult and adult lives. Children may be at a greater risk of abuse by perpetrators outside of their homes and vulnerable to abusive acts, such as grooming and sexual exploitation.
There are a number of organizations available online, over the phone, or in-person to help support victims of domestic violence, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Victims and their families are encouraged to reach out to national resources, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for support and assistance in leaving an abusive relationship. There are also local Texas resources that offer resources and services for DV victims, including TexasLawHelp.org, the Texas Family Violence Program, and the Texas Advocacy Project. Together, communities can help raise awareness to better the lives of domestic violence victims during National DVAM and all year round.