Dear Friends,

Recently, there has been increased publicity surrounding domestic violence awareness both locally with the recent homicide in Palm Bay and nationally following the release of the video of the Baltimore Raven’s Ray Rice’s assault on his then fiancée in an elevator in Las Vegas. This has shined a glaring light on the topic and has generated a lot of conversation about how to lessen its incidences. Since 1987, October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and so this is a fitting time to address the issue.

On September 17, 2013 the National Network to End Domestic Violence conducted a one-day census to determine how many domestic violence victims sought services on that day. The study revealed in Florida, 3,271 victims found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing, 1,248 received nonresidential assistance, and 739 hotline calls were answered. One day: 5,258 victims.

In Brevard County, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 3,806 incidences of domestic violence in 2013, of which 752 were classified as “aggravated assault” and five resulted in death. While there has been a decrease, since a high of 4,220 cases in 2003, these are still too many and something we, as a community, must address.

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. For the victim, domestic violence results in the loss of dignity and a sense of power and control. The violence can take many forms and happen frequently or once in a while. An important step to help yourself or someone you know in preventing or stopping violence is recognizing the warning signs. Examples of abuse include:

  • name-calling or putdowns
  • keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
  • withholding money
  • stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
  • actual or threatened physical harm
  • sexual assault
  • stalking
  • intimidation
  • withdrawal of the person from family and social circles

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, two million injuries and 1,300 deaths are caused each year as a result of domestic violence. It is a complex social issue, requiring early intervention and prevention efforts.

Domestic violence knows no socioeconomic bounds. Partners may or may not be married; live in the same household or reside separately; be of any race or ethnicity; rich or poor; or be of any sexual orientation. The violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity) and stalking. It can also take the form of emotional, psychological and financial abuse; though not punishable criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.

Domestic Violence takes a toll on children who witness violence in the home and can have a profound impact. Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes. Doing so is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. Those who live in homes where there is domestic violence suffer higher rates of abuse or neglect (30% to 60%) than those who grow up in a nonviolent home. In the Child Welfare community, domestic violence often accompanies substance abuse, further complicating the issue.

Children who experience long-term exposure to violence in the home may grow up to replicate the behavior both as batterers and victims. And boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. Many children who witness violence also experience academic repercussions as the result of sleepless nights, stress, and concern for the non-offending parent while they are at school. Witnessing traumatic events, such as the injury or death of a parent can have profound, long-lasting negative effects on a child.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence there are several local agencies available to assist. Help out or get help. Let’s stand up to break the cycle of violence today!