The celebration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month dates back to 1989, and since then, October has become the month where there is an international acknowledgment of domestic violence survivors. The celebration also aims to be the voice for its victims and heighten everyone's awareness regarding the implications of domestic violence.
The effects of domestic violence can be debilitating. Most of its victims are silent, lurking secretly in the shadows, slowly losing themselves to the trauma that can last a lifetime. Unknown to many, it is prevalent in every community. Domestic violence encompasses physical violence and emotional abuse, with these two going hand in hand as abusers enforce dominance and control over their victims. This can result in physical injuries, deep psychological trauma, and death if worse comes to worst.
And just when we thought that domestic violence was no longer that much of an issue in the 20th century – we were very much wrong. There is still an average of 20 people physically abused by intimate partners every minute. Imagine having more than 10 million abuse victims annually living in a state of hushed terror within their own homes. It is relatively easy to quantify physical abuse by an intimate partner such that we have numbers to support prevalence – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men are noted to have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner. However, it is challenging to take note of men and women who experience the brunt of emotional trauma from an intimate partner because the marks tend to be repressed and covered. With this in mind, we should continue raising awareness on identifying emotional abuse and what to do with it. Furthermore, we should be wary of the long-lasting adverse effects of domestic violence, especially on children, because it can severely affect their overall wellbeing and functioning.
So how do we effectively celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month? It can be in the form of four strong action words: know, remember, share and give.
KNOW. Because knowledge is power! First and foremost, educate yourself on domestic violence and sexual violence. Go through documentaries, laws, rights, and other documents that can help expand your knowledge on the issue. Note your statistics. Aim to know a lot that you would be confident enough to hold your seminars and workshops on educating others about the topic at hand. Aim to know more such that you become sure enough to speak up and be the voice the victims never had.
REMEMBER. Yes, it is essential never to forget. If it takes a walk down memory lane to strengthen your cause, then let it be. Countless people have lost their lives to intimate partner violence, and it's time to contribute to their memorial as a form of support to the loved ones left behind. These incidences of intimate-partner violence have highly affected communities of color - white victims are most likely to be publicized and put on the front pages of media. In contrast, missing women of color do not gain the same attention. It's time to remember this disparity and act on it.
SHARE. If you know the hotlines in your locality, share the number. If you know someone who is silently suffering, spend private time with them and guide them to the right people and resources. Share your time – and your listening ears – the best help that you have. Volunteer and serve on the frontlines, providing support and resources, especially for survivors who want to bounce back to their everyday lives.
GIVE. Sometimes it needs more than just time to get things going and keep things moving – often, every movement needs funds. You can organize fundraising activities to promote awareness of the subject and support those in this challenging situation. Sometimes, victims need professional support and therapy, and your fundraising activities can make it all possible.
Surviving domestic violence is a good thing and reclaiming your life is the best thing. The healing journey doesn't mean that you will forget the wounds from the physical or emotional abuser: it continues until the victim rises and moves past the scars. Be proactive in helping victims of domestic violence today.