October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. The annual event has occurred since 1981, and it is a time both to raise awareness and show support for men and women who are victims of domestic abuse. With public participation and a shift in public perception, society can achieve a zero-tolerance policy towards domestic abuse.
In this article, we define domestic abuse and discuss its many forms. We will then share ways that anyone can get involved in Domestic Abuse Awareness Month and work to raise awareness of the issue. Next, we discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic abuse. We will then cover how domestic abuse impacts behavioral health and how domestic abuse victims can access behavioral health treatment.
What is domestic abuse?
That National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic abuse as a "pattern of behaviors used by one party to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship." People often use the term interchangeably with intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic violence, and relationship abuse. One important take away from the above definition is that domestic abuse does not only consist of violent behavior or sexual violence. The definition of domestic abuse includes many forms of abusive behavior, including:
- Emotional abuse
- Making threats
- Economic abuse
- Using male privilege
- Forced isolation
- Minimizing or denying concerns
To read more about the multiple forms of domestic abuse, check out the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project's Power & Control Wheel. In addition to noting the various forms of abuse, it is important to understand that domestic abuse occurs among all types of people. Both men and women can be domestic abuse victims, and domestic abuse occurs across racial, generational, and socioeconomic lines.
How to get involved in Domestic Abuse Awareness Month
It is easy for anyone to raise awareness about domestic abuse issues. Each person's effort, however small, has the potential to impact a victim in need of help. Ways to get involved in Domestic Abuse Awareness Month include:
- Participating in the #VoicesHavePower campaign - You can participate by using the hashtag #VoicesHavePower on social media and sharing information and resources for domestic abuse victims. Also, you and your friends can text #VoicesHavePower to 94079, and Verizon will donate $3 towards the campaign for each message.
- Take the It's On Us pledge - Non-consensual sex is both sexual assault and domestic abuse. When you take the It's On Us pledge, you affirm your commitment to keeping people safe from sexual assault and refusing to be a bystander.
- Use the Take A Stand Toolkit - The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) offers various resources in its Take A Stand Toolkit. Resources include articles on domestic abuse topics and steps for subscribing to the NCADV newsletter. The toolkit also includes social media content and graphics that you can use to raise awareness among your online following.
Often, cases of domestic abuse can occur undetected for months or years. This reality is particularly relevant to domestic abuse cases that do not involve physical violence and visible marks, bruises, or scars. Victims of abuse may feel scared to reach out for help due to potential social repercussions or their partners' reactions. Accordingly, it is essential to raise awareness regarding domestic abuse and let victims know that support is available.
If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic abuse, know that there are people and organizations that are ready to help. Anyone can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233 at any time. In some situations, the victim may not be able to speak safely. In those cases, domestic abuse victims can chat online with an advocate or text "LOVEIS" to 1 (866) 331-9474.
Domestic abuse and the current public health crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States quickly, and social distancing measures led to significant lifestyle changes for many couples and families. As a result of the pandemic, many domestic abuse victims have faced more interaction and time with their abusers. In some cases, the increased time together and increased stress from the pandemic have led to more frequent or intensified domestic abuse episodes.
During the current public health crisis, domestic abuse victims may be unsure of where to turn for help. Many domestic abuse victims are unable to visit friends and other members of their support network during the pandemic. It may also be more challenging to find a safe shelter due to many facilities' new COVID-19 policies. However, domestic abuse victims must know that they do not have to endure their situations, and there are always resources that they can use for help.
Domestic abuse victims can make a safety plan with COVID-19 in mind, and an advocate from the National Domestic Violence Hotline can point people to relevant victim resources. As always, if you are in immediate danger, call 911.
How Aurora Behavioral Health System can help victims of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse affects people's behavioral health. Domestic abuse increases people's likelihood of developing PTSD, experiencing depression, and having suicidal thoughts. At Aurora Behavioral Health System, we know the pain and challenges that victims of domestic abuse face, and we are here to help. We offer a variety of behavioral health treatment programs for adults who face domestic abuse and mental health issues. Our team has many years of experience helping victims of domestic abuse achieve their behavioral health goals.
Remember…There is hope at Aurora
If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health or addiction symptoms that are concerning or worry you, Aurora is here to help. Our caring team of professionals takes a holistic and authentic approach while providing expert psychiatric care for teens and adults. For more information or to schedule a free confidential assessment, call our 24/7 Admissions Line at 877-870-7012.