After working as a social worker in the fields of mental health and child welfare for 20 years, and most recently with Hagar Cambodia, I recognize that a staggering number of individuals in the USA and globally suffer violence at the hands of their intimate partners. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence there are an average of 20 victims of physical abuse in the USA every minute and hotlines receive over 20,000 calls daily. During one’s lifetime, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner, with the highest prevalence for women between the ages of 18-24.
At Hagar we have consistently seen and heard about unfathomable violence. The survivor accounts are harrowing tales of narrow escapes, being controlled or held captive, physical and psychological injuries, death threats, and extreme coercion. Their remarkable recovery stories are of grit and survival, of facing trauma head-on, and fighting to regain their hopes and dreams. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and we acknowledge the millions of victims who are harmed or killed each year and honor them this month by speaking out against violence; by standing up for survivors; and by ensuring that Hagar and other organizations are able to continue providing recovery services for them.
In order to be an effective advocate it is essential to equip yourself with the warning signs of domestic violence which can include:
- unexplainable bruising and black eyes;
- trying to hide or cover up bruises;
- regular stories of falls or being clumsy;
- needing permission to meet others or to go in public;
- having few close friends and being isolated from loved ones;
- having little money or access to a car;
- low self-esteem;
- references to a partner’s anger problem;
- depression and suicidal thoughts/acts; and
- substance abuse.
If you are experiencing violence, or you get that “gut feeling” that a friend, family member or colleague is a victim, it is best to act upon it without delay. Take a bold step and discreetly talk to them about your concerns, and/or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for guidance and support. Advocates can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages. Together, with greater awareness, we must work to achieve Hagar’s Vision: “Communities free and healed from the trauma of human trafficking, slavery and abuse.”