Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Article Written By: Judy Rooney, LCSW, Tri-State Clearwater Medical
Have you seen the purple ribbons on display around town? This is a reminder that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With the arrival of COVID-19 in March, many changes hit us all at once that impacted our schedules, routines, finances, and relationships, that truly added another huge layer of stress on all of us. It’s sad but true, that since this pandemic there has been an increase in domestic violence cases, as well as alcohol and substance abuse; the two seem to go hand in hand. People are having trouble navigating their emotions, and feel more out of control with the lifestyle changes, with many of our usual ways of coping being curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
We tend to think of “domestic violence” in its most traditional sense, as an act of violence by a man against a woman. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued this statement (2014), defining the broader meaning of this public health issue:
“Violence takes many forms, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child maltreatment, bullying, suicidal behavior, and elder abuse and neglect. These forms of violence are interconnected and often share the same root causes. Understanding the overlapping causes of violence and the things that can protect people and communities is important, and can help us better address violence in all its forms.”
Violence is the result of a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors. The statistics are staggering, and because of the sense of shame and humiliation associated with these acts, confronting the situation is often difficult. Research has shown that those who use violence, have experienced abuse themselves, or have witnessed abuse during their childhood. Supporting the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships has the potential to reduce the occurrence of domestic violence and can prevent the harmful and long-lasting effects on individuals, families, and the community.
So you may be asking, “What can I do to prevent violence in our community?” Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
- Teach and reinforce healthy relationship skills – this pertains to youth/children, but also others. Lead by example – be respectful, communicate, and show kindness. Violence and manipulation is never the answer; settle arguments with (respectful) words, not fists or weapons. This does not mean minimizing your feelings, or acting tough, it means demonstrating healthy techniques of handling conflict and emotions in your own life and encouraging your kids to do the same.
- Encourage problem solving, avoid harsh punishment. Make sure the punishment comes out of care and concern for how they feel and behave, and not from your own emotional issues. It is important to demonstrate your own problem solving and coping strategies in front of your children.
- Be a positive, caring, supportive adult in a child’s life. Research has shown that kids need a minimum of 5 caring adults to help them grow up to be happy and healthy. Making sure children/adults feel safe, cared about, and connected, while ensuring they have a healthy and realistic sense of self-esteem and self-worth is a strong deterrent to violence.
- Apologize when you mess up. We all make mistakes, and demonstrating the desire to repair a relationship goes a long way, whether it be with a child or an adult. Openly admitting and apologizing for mistakes, shows that we are all human, that you are willing to own the mistake, as well as move forward with respect and caring.
- Build and support empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, to put yourself in another’s shoes. In some situations it is easy to empathize with others, however, we can all learn to be more empathetic by intentionally acknowledging and focusing on how others may feel.
- Help parents and family members in times of crisis; be supportive to lessen the stress. Sometimes that means just being there – having a presence, to help in whatever way may be helpful. Be willing to seek out and share other supportive resources within the community.
- Discourage substance use and abuse. Various studies have identified substance abuse as a factor in 40-60% of incidents of domestic violence, either in precipitating the abuse or exacerbating it.
- Learn and promote the use of calming techniques. We all worry and get upset from time to time, and we know how quickly our emotions, and anger, can get the best of us. Being able to regulate our emotions is easier said than done, so having a few strategies that you are familiar with will make it easier to utilize them when you are triggered. This can include taking deep calming breaths, getting the emotional energy out with a walk or run, listening to music, visualizing yourself being calm, getting some fresh air, or engaging in a relaxation exercise.
Preventing the problem of domestic violence requires courage and action, rather than silence and inaction. To break the cycle of violence, we need to emphasize self-reflection, self-control, and empathy, which contributes to building resilience. So let those purple ribbons be a reminder for you to continue to educate yourself, reach out to those in need, advocate, and lead by example. Individually, we can take steps towards ending domestic violence in all its forms.
- Utilize the YWCA for information, support, advocacy, and direct services; https://ywcaidaho.org, 208.746.965
- Report any suspicious actions to people you trust, and/or child protective services, adult protective services, and the police.