October is National Domestic Violence Prevention month. Although the rate of domestic violence has dropped a lot since the Violence Against Women Act (passed in 1994), it is still far too common in our society. In fact, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. An even greater number—three out of every four Americans know someone who is, or has been, a victim of domestic violence, according to www.breakthecycle.org.
Domestic violence, sometimes called intimate partner violence, isn’t just physical abuse, and it isn’t always between couples. Domestic violence includes any effort by an individual to gain or maintain power or control over his or her current or former date, partner or family member. This behavior can include sexual, emotional, economic, or other abuse. The abuse can take other forms as well, such as stalking, cyberstalking, and threats.
When children witness domestic violence in the home, it has serious effects on their health and wellbeing, both during childhood and later in life. Childwefare.gov states that “children and youth who are exposed to domestic violence, experience emotional, mental, and social damage that can affect their developmental growth.” Locally, 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men witnessed this behavior as a child. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a wide variety of resources for kids, parents, educators, and others looking for help in identifying, responding to, and recovering from abuse (https://bit.ly/2pCx2ty).
Luckily, there are some great ways to build protective influences around children and youth. Just eating meals as a family or doing activities together can make a difference. It’s also very important to build a support network in the community. In Thurston County there are great local resources that offer parent support. These include the Nurse-Family Partnership at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, the Family Support Center, Family Education and Support Services, Community Youth Services, and many others.
For those who are concerned that their friend or family member may be in danger from a partner or ex, or for teens who aren’t sure if the behavior they’re experiencing is abusive, it’s important to watch for warning signs. Relationships change over time, and according to www.loveisrespect.org, relationships can move from healthy to unhealthy, and on to abusive in a variety of ways. A relationship might be going in the wrong direction if a partner:
Checks your cell phone or email without permission
Constantly puts you down
Shows extreme jealousy or insecurity
Has an explosive temper
Isolates you from family or friends
Makes false accusations
Has mood swings
Physically hurts you in any way
Shows extreme possessiveness
Tells you what to do
Pressures or forces you to have sex
We can all help by learning about the impacts of domestic violence, engaging in discussions with family and friends, and by supporting victim service providers and those working to hold domestic violence offenders accountable. One thing you can do to prevent an unhealthy relationship is to better understand what a healthy relationship looks like (https://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/).
For those who are currently experiencing domestic violence, there is local help available, including:
SafePlace, Olympia, WA. Office: (360) 786-8754, Crisis Line: (360) 754-6300
Thurston County Family Justice Center – The Family Support Center, Olympia, WA. Office: (360) 754-9297
Partners in Prevention Education, Olympia, WA (360) 357-4472
More resources can be found at the National Domestic Violence Hotline web site: https://www.thehotline.org/ or call, 1-800-799-7233, or 800-787-3224 (TTY).