By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We urge everyone to devote some time this month to raising awareness about domestic violence, including educating others.
Why are education and awareness important? We heard over and over again from the survivors in our studies about the importance of education in preventing future domestic violence. We heard many important reasons why this education is so critical, including the following five ways that greater knowledge about domestic violence is so powerful:
Reason #1: Knowledge helps you examine patterns in your own life to identify potential risk factors for abuse.
One participant said, “Find out how an abuser and victim are created. Find out what healthy families and relationships truly are. Be brave enough to look at yourself and your family honestly and deal with the ugliness of dysfunction.”
Reason #2: We need to educate young people to help them create healthy relationships from the start.
The following participant quote highlights how early intimate partner violence can occur: “One thing I would love to see done on college campuses is more awareness about domestic violence, because so much of it occurs during the college years, whether they live on campus or not. So much of it occurs then.” And, we know that dating violence can occur even earlier than college, so early education is essential.
Reason #3: Through education, we can learn the difference between what may seem “normal” to us and what is safe and healthy.
One of our study participants said, “I came from an extremely abusive family. I was actually abused as a child but I allowed my family to be in my life and to continue. And not just my parents but also my brothers and sisters. They were as children trained to be abusers and they abused me for a long time, many years. It took me until I was in my 30’s to finally realize what was going on and to get to break away.” Most of us learn a lot about how to be in relationships with others from our experiences in our families-of-origin, and it can be difficult to determine how healthy those patterns are without the ability to think critically about them.
Reason #4: By educating ourselves, we can educate others.
When people do not understand the dynamics of intimate partner violence, they may be more unprepared to help when someone they know is being abused. For example, one participant said, “I think the biggest driving force for me is that I had done enough studying and had enough exposure to dysfunctional situations, that I knew the only way to give them a chance was to leave and to break the cycle. So, and again, in my frame or my circle of people there was no understanding of that.”
Reason #5: Knowledgeable communities provide more useful resources.
The following quote provides one example of the need for knowledge within community resources: “I just think there should be more resources in rural areas. But there’s not a lot of that...I don’t even know if I could have gone to the health center or something that we have. There should be more knowledge.” Although this participant is referring specifically to resources in rural communities, it is likely that every community has areas for improving the resources available to survivors. By understanding the dynamics of intimate partner violence, these needed resources can be more easily identified and developed.
For all of these reasons, we encourage all readers to take time this month (and every month!) to raise awareness about domestic violence!