By Grace Harvey
This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in planning our events and programs, it’s been brought to my attention the ways in which many people are unaware of what domestic violence looks like in various communities. Domestic violence manifests itself in many different ways, which can make it difficult to spot if you don’t know what signs to look out for.
For example, someone may envision the stereotype of physical violence and a married couple. But all types of relationships can be abusive, and that abuse can be not only physical but also mental, emotional, and financial. It affects all ages and all genders. This is a problem that affects everyone in varying degrees, and it is our obligation to address this issue to the best of our ability to better serve ourselves and our communities.
Abusive relationships are isolating—victims are made to believe they are alone and without resources. The abuser systemically steals their partner’s autonomy and voice, until their situation appears impossible to escape. Because of this, it is important for someone attempting to reach out to a person whom they believe to be a victim of this situation to do so in a manner that is clearly defined and supportive, while not being overbearing or demanding. One way of doing this is to reach out, without force, and letting the person know that you are worried for them and are there if they need to talk. If the person chooses to speak about their situation, it is important to validate what they share to you and actively listen in a nonjudgmental way. And, when the survivor is ready, it’s vital that they have a plan in place when leaving to facilitate their safe departure from their toxic environment. This is a pivotal step—they will need to secure safe shelter, issue possible restraining orders, and should make sure they have any important financial or legal documents they will need for their lives after escape.
Surviving a traumatic experience is difficult, but we all can help. Support comes in many forms, and often times just elevating the voices of survivors and allowing them to speak their truths is enough to change a terrible and isolating situation into one of empowerment and change.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a domestic violence situation, please reach out to a trusted friend or counselor, or call the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence at (800) 524-4765 or visit http://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/ for more helpful resources.