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October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – As she turned away from the mirror, she thought to herself just a little more base, some concealer, maybe a little blush, and no one will be able to tell. It wasn’t his fault. If that idiot boss of his could’ve just seen his side, maybe he wouldn’t have drank so much last night and …

The crunch of gravel snapped her out of her daze and into a state of panic. Why is he home at this time of the morning? Terrified and with her heart racing a million miles per hour, she looked out the window. It’s okay, she thought, it’s just Cathy here to pick me up for work. Good ol’ Cathy… never a care in the world, sweet as can be, I can’t believe she’s divorced.

She grabbed her purse, slipped on her shades, locked the door and headed towards Cathy‘s beat up Honda. As she got close, she stopped. She could feel Cathy’s gaze peering into her soul and could almost hear the questions before they were asked. What happened? Did he hit you – again? That’s when the tears started. 

Scenes like this play out every day throughout the countryside, town, city, county, state and nation. It’s an ongoing problem with no ethnic, gender, religious or class bias.

It is for this very reason October has been as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If there is any doubt domestic violence is a problem in our country, turn on the news or ESPN and the uncertainty will be removed.

Athletes are paraded across the screen in handcuffs after their arrests for domestic violence. All-Pros like Ray Rice, O.J. Simpson and Rae Carruth are now remembered not for their prowess on the playing fields, but rather the assaults and murders they committed.

Celebrities like Rihanna, Halle Berry, Amber Heard, Mariah Carey, Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron have all spoken out about their experiences with domestic violence.  

Names like Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, Chris and Shanann Watts, Jodi Arias, Scott and Laci Peterson, Lissette Ochoa – murderers and victims the average person would likely never hear of – became seared into the national conscience because of domestic violence and the heinous details surrounding their particular cases.

Domestic violence or family violence is defined in Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code as, “An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault or that is a threat the reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault, but does not included defensive measures to protect oneself; abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or dating violence.” 

According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, “DVAM evolved from the “Day of Unity” held in October 1981 and conceived by the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV). The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became an entire week devoted to a range of activities conducted at the local, state, and national level. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. That same year marks the initiation of the first national domestic violence toll-free hotline. In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 101-112 designating October of that year as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Such legislation has passed every year since with NCADV providing key leadership in this effort. Each year, the Day of Unity is celebrated the first Monday of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

While national attention is often given to domestic violence involving celebrities, athletes and those cases containing a horrific component, many may ask the question, “Does it happen here?” Take the time to look around. The lady at work who said she ran into a door or tripped on the stairs, while she may be telling the truth, it might seem a little odd after the third time in a month.

The NCADV reports, “In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually. If each of these adults experienced only once incidence of violence, an adult in the US would experience violence every three seconds. However, because domestic violence is a pattern, many experience repeated acts of abuse annually, so an incident of abuse happens far more frequently than every three seconds.”

Unfortunately, in the immediate area, the rebuttal often heard is, “They seemed so happy” or “I simply don’t believe it” or “I’ve known him/her since we were in grade school and he/she isn’t capable of that.”

In data compiled through a statewide survey conducted by the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) it showed 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.  

Think of it this way, next month, when Thanksgiving rolls around, many families will come together. Look around the table and you may well see your grandmother, your mother, your sister, sister-in-law or your aunt. The statistics indicate at least one of these women will have been a victim of domestic violence.

The numbers are staggering. During the year 2019, in the state of Texas: 197,023 incidents of family violence were reported with 212,885 victims. Females accounted for 71.6% of domestic violence victims.    

According to the TCFV, “In 2020, the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic increased isolation and economic stressors that compounded the impact of abuse, including frequency and severity of violence. TCFV documented the highest number of intimate partner homicides in the last decade; 228 men and women were killed by their intimate partners. Intimate partner homicide perpetrators also killed 31 family, friends, and bystanders and injured 17. The majority of homicides were committed by a perpetrator with a firearm.”

A report from the Texas Department of Public Safety published in 2018, stated there were: 34 cases of domestic violence reported in Houston County; Anderson County had 134 reported cases; Trinity County had 16 reported cases; Cherokee had 480 reported cases; Leon County had five reported cases; Madison County had 46 reported cases; and Walker County had 349 cases.

The key word in these statistics is reported.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.

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