October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and advocates across the country will be showing support for the cause in a variety of ways. Here at D-M, a number of units are joining the Family Advocacy Program in demonstrating solidarity against domestic abuse. There will be a number of activities highlighting awareness of domestic violence across the base throughout October. These include the availability of purple ribbon pins (purple is the signature color of domestic violence), information pamphlets, “Empty Chairs” decorated with purple streamers as a symbol of silent witnesses, and other activities.
The goal of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to educate and engage victims and perpetrators of abuse, as well as those who witness it and are unsure what, if anything, they should do. Misconceptions about domestic violence abound. For a long time it was thought that only women are victims. More recently, studies show that both men and women are victims as well as perpetuators of domestic violence. Some feel that alcohol is the culprit. While it can exacerbate the situation, it does not cause domestic abuse. Perhaps most common, is the belief that domestic abuse happens only in poor communities. Domestic violence occurs at all socio-economic levels and is devastating to families regardless of race, sexual orientation, income status or military rank.
Those closest to victims – friends, neighbors and family – often do not know what to do when they see abuse and are hesitant to call authorities. For some, however, their intervention can mean the difference between life and death. Davis-Monthan Family Advocacy hopes to promote awareness so that people will become more involved and active in calling for help when neighbors are fighting, or when there is an incident on base or in a public place. It is also important to know that “behind closed doors”, people may engage in behaviors that they hide from the general population. It is not uncommon for “abusers” to appear to be friendly, outgoing and charming and the people in our community we would least expect to be abusive. The truth is, anyone can be a perpetrator and anyone can be a victim.
One of the biggest misunderstandings surrounding domestic violence is its negative impact on children. The effects can be both long term and severe. They include any or all of the following: Nightmares, anger, anxiety, hyper-vigilance (constant fear) and sadness. Children surrounded by domestic abuse often become ambivalent, are poor performers at school, have feelings of powerlessness and may quickly form attachments, sometimes inappropriate ones, to other people. Like their parents, they have difficulty resolving conflicts and often feel powerless. As evidence, many adults today can recall incidents of domestic abuse with sharp clarity that happened when they were young. According to experts, many children involved as participants or innocent bystanders in a domestic violence situation are basically in a war zone, much like their military parent(s).
The Family Advocacy Center is the primary source of family violence assistance at D-M. Family Advocacy offers various classes and services and we are fortunate to have a Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate as a new member of our team. The DAVA provides services such as finding temporary housing, assisting with Orders of Protection, establishing a safety plan for victims and children, establishing safety plans and securing other community and base resources. The Family Advocacy Program also collaborates with many other agencies, both on and off base, to provide families with the support they need.
For further information about domestic abuse, or the Family Advocacy program, call 228-2104.