By David Lloyd
Family Advocacy Program Office
Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Looking Back, Moving Forward
More than 20 years ago, the first federal funds were authorized for the establishment, maintenance and expansion of programs and projects to prevent incidents of family violence and provide shelter and assistance for victims and their children.
Congress formally recognized October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month through a congressional resolution, citing the frequency of violence against women by their intimate partners, the universal nature of such violence and the associated abuse of children in homes where domestic violence occurs. The resolution also recognized the importance of nationwide efforts to increase public understanding of domestic violence and the work of advocates to help domestic violence victims leave abusive relationships.
|(Photo courtesy : mccslejeune)|
The dedication of tireless advocates has helped increase public understanding of domestic violence as a serious public health issue, and driven public investment in the prevention of domestic violence.
The Defense Department has joined this movement. Established in the early eighties, the Family Advocacy Program addresses domestic violence in military families through prevention efforts, early identification and intervention, support for victims and treatment for abusers. This office works with offices and agencies both on the installation and in the civilian community to provide a coordinated community response to domestic abuse incidents.
As recently as 2004, DOD instituted additional measures to promote a culture shift within the military environment that prioritizes offender accountability and victim safety. DOD's restricted reporting policy enables victims to seek medical care and safety planning without law enforcement notification. For military communities accustomed to command involvement in almost all matters, this measure, in particular, represents profound progress in the effort to keep victims safe and promote help-seeking behavior.
Despite this progress, there is still work to be done, as men and women remain at risk. Nationally, there are almost 4.8 million intimate partner-related violent incidents each year and some of these victims are in military families.
As President Barack Obama emphasized last year when he designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this month is a time to "[R]ededicate ourselves to breaking the cycle of violence. By providing young people with education about healthy relationships, and by changing attitudes that support violence, we recognize that domestic violence can be prevented. We must build the capacity of our nation's victim service providers to reach and serve those in need. Together, we must ensure that, in America, no victim of domestic violence ever struggles alone."
So, what can be done to support the ongoing effort to end domestic violence? What can you do?
-- (Re) Educate Yourself: As Congress emphasized in 1981, domestic violence is universal. It crosses all demographic lines and can affect men and women in all racial, social, religious, ethnic, and economic groups, and of all ages and physical abilities. No one is immune. Domestic violence, now often referred to as intimate partner violence, includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats and emotional abuse.
-- Become Part of the Solution: Volunteer with an organization that supports victims and works to end domestic violence. Find out how you can become involved in your local Family Advocacy Program's Domestic Violence Awareness Month efforts. Help those you care about, particularly young people who are just beginning to explore romantic relationships, learn about healthy relationships.
-- Recognize the Signs of Abuse: Understand how to recognize the signs of abuse and help a potential victim access the help he or she needs. If nothing else, remember the number: 1-800-799-SAFE, available to serve victims 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you are in an abusive relationship, or if something about your relationship with your partner scares you, get help now. To find a victim advocate, call the installation operator or Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 and ask for the number of the domestic violence victim advocate. You also can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline within the United States at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you are outside of the United States, contact the American Domestic Violence Crisis Line by calling the local AT&T operator in your country and asking to be connected to 866-USWOMEN.
As we look back, we hope you are inspired to help us move forward to promote an end to domestic violence.