October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which has evolved from the "Day of Unity" held in October 1981 and conceived by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children.
Domestic violence is "a pattern of physically, sexually, and or emotionally abusive behaviors used by one individual to assert power or to maintain control over another in the context of an intimate or family relationship". Domestic violence impacts women, men, and children of every age, background, and belief. Approximately 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 7 men in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner, i.e., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something, at some point in their lifetime (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report).
According to the Virginia Chief Medical Examiner's Office, 36% of all Virginia homicides in 2013 were attributed to Family and Intimate Partner Violence (FIPV). While the overall number of homicides has decreased since 2009, the proportion of deaths attributed to FIPV remains stable at one in three or higher (Family & Intimate Partner Homicide Report, Virginia Chief Medical Examiner's Office, 2013). Physical marks may often be the most obvious signs of the harm caused by domestic violence, but the true extent of the pain goes much deeper. Children who witness domestic violence often experience lifelong trauma. Though great progress has been made in bringing awareness to and providing protections against domestic violence, much work remains to be done. More awareness is being raised for dating violence and reducing sexual assault among students, teens, and young adults.
If you or someone you know is a victim of crime, you can contact the toll-free Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Crime Victim Assistance Info-Line at 1-888-887-3418 for assistance. Callers will be informed of their rights as victims under the Virginia Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act and will receive additional information, support and referrals to program and resources in their communities.
Additionally, domestic violence and sexual assault victims seeking immediate assistance may also contact the toll-free Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. Hotline staff is available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Please wear a purple ribbon during the month of October to show your commitment to stopping violence in our communities and across the nation.