Thirty-two years ago, the first National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was celebrated, back when laws to protect those being abused by an intimate partner were sketchy at best and implemented to varying degrees. At the time, many believed domestic violence was simply a family matter, and if victims of intimate partner abuse chose to stay in the relationship, they “must really like it.”
Thanks to the efforts of many hard-working individuals, those in positions of authority began to take the issue seriously. Local law enforcement and elected officials have come to recognize the importance of the issue and the severity of the crimes committed — including long-term impact on families and our community as a whole. Today, every state marks October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
So, why are members of our community still dying by the hands of those who profess to love them? More importantly, if changing the law around domestic violence does not protect victims of domestic violence and their children, what and who will?
The answers surrounding intimate partner violence are as complicated as those questions. What we do understand is three-fold: 1) domestic violence is rooted in power and control issues; 2) batterers’ batter because they can; and 3) victims are in the greatest danger of homicide when they leave. Other statistics to note: 35% of workplace absenteeism is caused by domestic violence, and it’s estimated that, nationwide, domestic violence costs businesses between $3 billion and $5 billion annually for lost time, productivity and health care costs paid by employers.
In 2018, Manatee County had 2,252 law enforcement reports for domestic violence; Sarasota had 1,212 reports; and Charlotte County had 417.
Together we can improve the statistics in our community. By holding abusers accountable, supporting victims of domestic violence, and monitoring the court systems, this year’s message of change during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month will have a better probability of success.
And, finally, once and for all, let’s stop blaming victims for the behavior of their partners.
Laurel Lynch, CEO
Hope Family Services