By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
October is always an advocacy-charged time of the year. With it being both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there is a fair share of advocacy and activist work being done. October’s a month where splashes of pink and purple can be seen all over your community. It’s a time where we celebrate women that we love and health concerns that we hope to change. But here’s the problem: Talking about any issue for only a month won’t really change the issue.
Talking about domestic violence for one month a year is not going to even put a dent in the issue. Discussing physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse one month per year will not help the estimated 42.4 million women in the United States who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (NCADV).* It’s not enough for the woman who blames herself to cope with the abuse she faces at home. It's not enough for the man who is ashamed to call the police after being beaten by his partner for fear that he will be stigmatized. It is not enough for the teen who identifies ‘red flags’ within her relationship, yet is unable to realize that these may lead to abuse. I can assure you that even hearing about domestic violence for 21 years was not enough for my 21-year-old self when I witnessed the brutal bruises that my best friend would receive from her partner.
It’s my stance that history has proven that talking about domestic violence for only a month has yet to improve the state of violence against women. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed 1987, yet nearly 30 years later the rates of both women and men dealing with this issue are not only alarming, but downright terrifying.
Raising awareness is a great start to the work that remains to be done, but it isn’t something that is going to trigger a cultural change. Abusers do not just stop committing violent acts after October 31st; yet, for some reason the national outcry of support and understanding does.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that, for one month a year, folks are emotionally charged about domestic violence. It excites me--it gives me hope. Nonetheless, my work as an advocate doesn’t end when DVAM ends, nor should our nation’s focus on this issue. But that’s just it--We as a society often are only focusing on the problem for one month a year. Domestic violence affects each and every member of our nation, every day, regardless of if people identify as a victim or not. Domestic violence affects our children’s educations, our communities, our economy and, more importantly, it’s affecting people we know--our friends, family, and colleagues.
An incredible aspect of domestic violence is that it’s 100% preventable. This means that we need to dedicate time, money, energy and heart way more than just in October to end this public health epidemic. As we begin to prepare to promote DVAM, I ask you to speak up, join the cause, paint your hair purple, volunteer at a local shelter, donate food or clothing to local DV agencies--Do all you can do to support the cause. DVAM is an important time of year, but remember it’s just the opening segment of a conversation that needs to be had all the time.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://www.ncadv.org/