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Domestic Violence Awareness: it's not a private matter

(graphic by 21st Space Wing Family Advocacy Program)

(graphic by 21st Space Wing Family Advocacy Program)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Officially, more than 15,000 calls were placed to the Colorado Springs Police Department on domestic violence related incidents in 2014.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and designated by the President in 1987 to address the issue of intimate partner violence through outreach, education and awareness. It's a time to mourn those who died as a result of domestic violence, celebrate survivors and connect people working to end the violence.

For the month of October, the 21st Space Wing Family Advocacy office will have events, such as Lunch and Learn classes to educate Airmen about domestic violence.
By definition, domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior, including threats and/or the use of physical violence, used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. It can include emotional abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse.

"Intentional physical contact and sexual violence are what people normally associate with domestic violence," said Capt. Sara McDowell, 21st Space Wing deputy family advocacy officer. "But it's also the emotional abuse, like degrading, disparaging, name calling - bad mom, bad dad - and controlling behaviors like limiting resources."

The stigma that domestic violence only happens amongst married couples is not true. McDowell said both offenders and victims range from young to old, married to unmarried. No one is immune to it.

"In the Armed Forces we have people join from all over and we see it all in our office - with officers and enlisted, young Airmen, seasoned couples, and different cultures," she said.

To make matters worse, McDowell said children are often present. They hear the yelling, the screaming, physical altercations and sometimes even try to step between arguing parents and end up getting involved themselves.

"With domestic violence, children can certainly be the victims," she said.

With such a wide variety of people involved and affected, domestic violence is a sensitive subject, but by no means a private one, said Jeremy Roberts, 21st SW Family Advocacy program assistant.

"It doesn't just affect the family," he said. "It affects everybody around. It affects the offender, the victim, the children, and their workplace. It has an effect on so many levels and people don't realize that."

All too often, this sort of behavior is kept in-house and victims try to keep quiet, but it trickles out, Roberts said. It is important for others to have a keen eye and notice any changes and intervene.

Intervention is integral to helping someone suffering to get out of a bad situation. Even better, prevention helps address issues as they develop and before they escalate to the point of maltreatment, McDowell said.

"We do a lot of prevention programs that are highlighting these warning signs and unhealthy relationships," she said. "Prior to jumping to the maltreatment side, you're already seeing it and taking care of yourself."

Several of the prevention programs will be offered throughout the month of October. Each one will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 21st Medical Group conference room (Bldg. 725).

"Stop the Drama" is a course about the toxic roles in relationships and life, as described in the old model of Karpman's "family drama triangle." It will also go over a new reframe of that triangle with new positive roles to step into. This program will be offered Oct. 6.

"At World's End" will highlight anger and stress management with some healthy avenues to channel those emotions as to not internalize or externalize them in a negative way. This program is offered Oct. 13 and 27.

"Effective Communication" goes over reflective listening, which entails paraphrasing to make sure the intent of each message is clear. It often involves understanding the "message under the message." This course is offered Oct. 20.

In addition to these programs, there will be silhouettes around base showcasing real people who died as a result of domestic violence. McDowell said it brings the realities of the crimes home because it's personal.

"What happened to this mother or this child, it's personal," she said. "This is told in such a way that it's a 'no-kidding life' right in front of them."

Audiences respond better to personal stories and McDowell hopes Airmen will pay closer attention to others around them and step forward if they know someone struggling with domestic violence. Even if it isn't going to Family Advocacy or calling 911, but stepping forward and intervening is a start.

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, you are not alone. Help and support is available.

For more information or to seek help, contact the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate at the Peterson Advocacy Program at 719-556-8943 or after duty hours at 719-244-9903.

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