October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, offering us a good time to talk about this problem. Today’s blog post is written by Marta Chadwick, JD, Director, Violence Intervention and Prevention Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Community Health and Health Equity.
Domestic violence remains a pervasive public health issue that impacts the health and well being of the communities in which we live, work and play. We have heard a lot about the issue in the last month, with a number of high profile cases in the media. Statistics indicate that one in four women and one in seven men have experienced sexual violence, domestic violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
Given the attention to this problem, many people are asking, “What can I do to stop this? How can I be part of the solution?”
Recognize the Signs
Some signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship include your partner making you feel afraid, telling you that you are crazy or worthless, preventing you from talking with friends or family, keeping you from your appointments, physically hurting or threatening you, forcing you to engage in sexual activity against your will, or taking or control how you spend your money.
Recent events highlight the emotional complexities faced by those in abusive relationships. Often, it is never as easy as “just deciding” to leave a partner. Instead of questioning a victim’s motives, we should seek to understand and support those who remain in relationships that threaten their physical and emotional health.
Here are some steps everyone can follow to end abuse:
- If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, help is available. Passageway at Brigham and Women’s Healthcare provides free, voluntary and confidential services to any patient, employee or community member experiencing violence in their relationship. Call 617-732-8753 for more information.
- Educate yourself about domestic violence and share this information with friends and family.
- Believe someone who discloses experience in an abusive relationship.
- If you see someone who looks like they may be in trouble, ask if they are okay.
- If you see a friend doing something that seems abusive or hurtful toward someone else, say something.
- Confront friends who make excuses for other people’s abusive behavior.
- Speak up if someone says something offensive, derogatory, or abusive and let them know that behavior is wrong.
- Teach our youth that sexism, violence, racism and oppression no longer has a place in our communities.