Family violence is ubiquitous.
In addition to October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, several things have recently happened to remind me of the harsh realities of family violence. You would think I’d know better — I’ve been trained as a go-out counselor (a volunteer who goes to the hospital if someone in the emergency room wants a trained advocate) and have received additional family violence training. I’ve been trained as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate to provide a voice for a child who has been removed from his or her home). All this is to say, I know family violence can happen anywhere, and it shouldn’t be a shock to me that I know people who are experiencing it.
Reading and watching Big Little Lies brought this issue back to my awareness. Without giving too much away, one of the families is dealing with family violence. The story goes into the complex issues of why people stay — and how truly difficult it is to leave family violence.
Another reminder came during a series of conversations in a close-knit moms group I’m a part of. One mom brought up a disagreement she’d had with her spouse. The argument she described was verbal abuse, plain and simple. What really surprised me was how many other women in the group expressed that they’d had similar experiences. Not long after that conversation, this same mom told the group that the violence had turned physical. The caring and supportive response from these amazing women was beautiful and touching.
As you might imagine, when a group of supportive women feel an urgent need to help, things can become a little chaotic and overwhelming. But the experience reminded me that some basic facts and resources might be helpful for others.
When you’re in the position of needing to call a family/domestic violence hotline, you’re not in a good place, and even the thought of calling can be overwhelming. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a page that can walk you through what to expect when you call a hotline. Even this small bit of knowledge about what to expect from a scary step can make a big difference. (It also has some easy ways to leave the page quickly if you need to.)
What can/should you do? What if you don’t want to leave? And what steps can you take to try to be safe? Helpguide.org can walk you through all these questions. This is a supportive page that reminds women they are not the cause of the abuse, they deserve respect, and they deserve to be safe.
What if you aren’t experiencing family violence yourself, but you know (or think you know) someone who is? Abuseintervention.org has a tip sheet on things to do/not do when you want to help someone. Everydayfeminism.com also has a page with information for recognizing and helping someone who is experiencing family violence. This page also shares some helpful facts about relationship/family violence:
- 30% of couples struggle with domestic violence of some sort.
- 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime.
- 1 in 4 gay men experiences domestic violence.
- 17-45% of lesbian women report having been the victim of a least one act of physical violence perpetrated by a lesbian partner.
- 74% of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
Some additional facts:
- Teen dating violence is on the rise.
- Violence can be verbal or physical.
- Yes, that family that seems to have it all — they may be experiencing family violence.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to others (privately and supportively!). Wouldn’t you rather be wrong than not have been supportive?
Finally, if you need help and are looking to reach out, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: