October Policy Spotlight – Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) define domestic violence as the willful intimidation, assault, battery, sexual assault, or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one family member, household member, or intimate partner against another. Based on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Injury Prevention and Control, approximately 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men are victims of intimate partner physical assaults or rapes every year. In 2007, 2,340 of those assaults resulted in death; 70 percent of them were women and 30 percent of them were men. In 2003, it was estimated by the CDC that intimate partner violence accounted for $8.3 billion in medical care, mental health services, and lost productivity.
Domestic violence does not only occur in marriages or domestic partnerships but in dating relationships as well. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, dating violence is defined as controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a straight or gay romantic relationship. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination of them. There are several risk factors to intimate partner violence (IPV) including alcohol consumption, traumatic events, economic stress, and a history of violence. In the United States, 55 percent of IPV cases involved alcohol according to the Department of Justice. Involvement of alcohol is particularly true in teen dating violence. One in ten teens has been verbally or physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend who was drunk or high as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2001, more than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
Teen dating violence has grown to be a prominent domestic violence issue. One in four teens report being hit, slapped, or pushed by their partner in a serious relationship. One in three teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship. 50 percent to 80 percent of teens have reported knowing others who were involved in violent relationships. 15 percent of teen girls and boys have reported being victims of severe dating violence. Eight percent of eighth and ninth grade students have reported being victims of sexual dating violence. Among teens, violent crimes involving an intimate partner are ten times higher for females than for males.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws against dating violence-associated with crimes such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. However, these laws do not specifically mention “dating violence”. Thirty-five states allow minors to have civil protection orders against dating partners, with various restrictions depending upon the age of the minor. Despite the opportunity for legal action as many as 27 percent of victims of domestic violence do not report the incident to the police.
Many victims of domestic violence may not be aware of what they can do and who to turn to for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE  or TTY 1-800-787-3224) is available to victims and concerned friends and family 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Constituents can call the Hotline for crisis intervention, safety planning, information, and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For teens involved in dating violence the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (1-866-331-9474, or TTY 1-866-331-8453) and www.loveisrespect.org are helpful resources. For domestic violence shelters, victim advocacy programs, or other services for victims, victims can contact their state’s domestic violence coalition. A list of contact information for all domestic and sexual violence coalitions can be found at www.VAWnet.org.
Some victims of domestic violence feel isolated with no chance of escaping the abuse. It is important for victims to know that resources are available in their area. Make information about domestic violence and local shelters available to your constituents through your office or website. You can also wear and distribute Purple Ribbons in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Other awareness month campaign ideas and materials can be found at the Domestic Violence Awareness Project website at dvam.vawnet.org.