Guest commentary: Domestic Violence Awareness Month aims to shine light on pervasive problem
If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence or sexual abuse call Response’s confidential crisis assistance hotline: 970.925.SAFE (7233) for an immediate response for victims any day of the week, at any hour of the day. Go to responsehelps.org for more information.
Domestic violence thrives in silence. In order to support and help victims and survivors, and to prevent domestic violence in the future, we need to end this silence and bring the topic into the light. And, in order to talk honestly about domestic violence, we need to fully understand what it is.
Domestic violence is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that affects millions of individuals across the United States.
It is a preventable and widespread public health problem that cuts across race, age, income, sexual orientation, education level, religion and gender, in terms of both victims and perpetrators.
It is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include not only physical abuse, but also emotional, psychological, sexual or financial abuse. Some abusers are able to exert complete control over their victim’s every action using mere threats of violence or none at all. All types of abuse are devastating to victims.
Abusive partners make it very difficult for victims to escape relationships. Sadly, many survivors suffer from abuse for decades without seeking help. It is important for survivors to know that the abuse is not their fault and that they are not alone. Help is available from organizations like Response here in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Every October, we draw attention to this issue through Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year’s theme is #Every1KnowsSome1 to underscore the fact that domestic violence can happen to anyone and is so much more prevalent than most people realize.
Statistically, one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and our valley is no exception. Our advocates at Response served 150 survivors of domestic and sexual abuse in the upper Roaring Fork Valley last year. So far in 2021, we have already helped 145 more survivors. We typically receive between 250 and 300 calls to our 24-hour crisis helpline each year, and that number is rising.
The pandemic has been especially hard on survivors who have been forced further into isolation and have faced both increased abuse and more difficulty reaching out for help.
High-profile cases of domestic violence attract local and national headlines, yet thousands more people experience domestic abuse behind closed doors every day. Individual instances of domestic violence capture public attention, particularly when they involve a celebrity or a fatality, and attention is often greater for white victims than for others. However, this coverage rarely focuses on the ubiquity of intimate partner abuse, the power dynamics driving it, and the harmful stereotypes about who victims are, how they behave, and the best ways to help them.
Dangerous stereotypes about domestic violence persist and are partly why the public and law enforcement need better education on the dynamics of abuse. Harmful myths about domestic violence include the assumption that it’s easy for victims to leave, that help is always available when sought, and that abusers are easy to spot.
The only way that we can end the crisis of domestic abuse nationally and at home is to keep shining a light on it, no matter where it happens, how it happens or to whom.
Response is available to support any victim who seeks our help. Our services are entirely confidential, bilingual and completely free thanks to our donors. We are also committed to educating the next generation about these issues and provide programming on healthy relationships and consent in middle and high schools from Basalt to Aspen.
We hope that you will join us in working toward a community free of domestic and sexual abuse.
Shannon Meyer is the executive director of Response, a Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit amid to help those experience domestic violence and sexual abuse.