By now, we’re all accustomed to seeing professional athletes and other high-profile people make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
During the first week of October, an NBA player and three martial-arts fighters were either charged, arrested or punished by their sport for alleged domestic violence incidents. A gubernatorial candidate in Oregon even made the ill-informed comment that educated, well-off women are “not susceptible to this kind of abuse.”
The truth is that domestic violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people, regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality. For each story of abuse by an athlete, celebrity or public figure, thousands of similar cases by everyday Americans never make the news – or worse yet, never get reported to the authorities.
As we mark October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, pause for a moment to consider the scope of this hidden epidemic.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every three seconds someone is physically abused by an intimate partner. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive 20,000 phone calls nationwide. And in Florida alone, police respond to more than 100,000 domestic incidents per year.
The good news is that, as a society, we’ve come a long way in getting this issue out in the open. For too long, domestic violence was swept under the rug. Today, more and more people are speaking up and saying enough is enough.
On the national level, awareness campaigns and organizations like No More are uniting people to stand together and hold perpetrators accountable. Locally, we have a strong network of safe havens where women and their children can receive emotional support, safety planning and mentoring, as well as assistance with housing, career and legal services.
At SafeHouse of Seminole, we’re also taking a preventative approach by using programs like BRAVE (Bystanders Rising Above Violence Everywhere) to educate young people on the value of building healthy relationships. Steering kids away from bullying, stalking and social media harassment means they will be less likely to develop abusive behaviors as adults.
Another community initiative that’s gaining steam is SafeHouse’s affiliation with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, where our child welfare specialist works closely with family investigators to make sure children stay in a safe environment with their non-offending parent.
If the issue of domestic violence resonates with you – or if you’d like to learn more about being part of the solution in Central Florida – visit www.SafeHouseofSeminole.org. And feel free to join us 7 p.m. Oct. 25 for “Celebrate Hope” at the Woman’s Club of Sanford, a free event designed to strengthen survivors in an atmosphere of healing, peace and happiness.