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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH: Domestic violence is more than physical

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Count to 10. Within that time one woman in the United States was just assaulted or beaten. Keep counting, go up to 60. About 20 people in the U.S. were just physically abused by an intimate partner.

These statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence point to the prevalence of an ugly truth: Domestic violence is more common than many people realize. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, intended to spotlight this violation of a person’s basic right to be free from violence and abuse.

“People don’t think about the fact that domestic violence is not just physical,” said Shirley Crow, domestic abuse victim advocate with the Peterson Air Force Base Family Advocacy Program. “It’s emotional, financial and sexual, too.”

She said domestic violence is extremely prevalent and growing across the nation. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that one in four women are victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives. Eighty percent of the violence happens to females and 20 percent to males, but males do not typically report the events or seek help.

Another startling statistic, Crow said, is that 80 percent of women who are murdered in the U.S. are killed by an intimate partner at the time they are trying to leave the situation.

“Victims leave seven to nine times before they really leave,” she said. “And the violence gets worse each time.”

Many victims, especially those in the military or with a military tie, face cultural issues that make it easier for abusers to target them.

“Some are foreign spouses and only know life on a military base,” said Kenyetta Bond, domestic abuse victim advocate with the Peterson Air Force Base Family Advocacy Program. “They don’t know their rights or where to get help.”

These victims don’t know they can make a doctor appointment for themselves, or do many other things on their own because they are not the active duty member. Bond said the abusers don’t share that information.

“The abusers are so good at indoctrination that the victims are surprised at finding out what they can do,” said Bond.

There are signs that things are getting worse. The trend in sexual abuse is toward greater violence that is not tied to substance abuse. Younger people are becoming more accepting of violence, Crow added. But some recent changes to state laws may help.

New legislation in Colorado aims to toughen laws that protect against domestic violence, making choking and strangulation a felony. The legislation was enacted July 1 and addresses the risks associated with choking. Before the law, Crow said smothering, choking and strangling were misdemeanor domestic violence charges if the victim did not lose consciousness.

“Now it’s a felony to choke or strangle, regardless of if the victim loses consciousness,” said Crow.

Verbal abuse is another form of domestic abuse not often considered by many people.

“Words can be harmful too,” she said. “Some people don’t think so, but words can hurt and be dangerous.”

With domestic abuse becoming more prevalent, what can be done? Bond said victims must understand they cannot change abusers, but those people must get help for themselves.

“A lot of victims think they will change and stay with them,” said Bond, “But that’s not usually the case.”

She encouraged victims of domestic abuse to make people aware of the situation because if more people know about it, safety and protection increases. Bond also suggests having a plan, including a code word, involving neighbors, friends and children what to do in an explosive situation.

“If you are a friend or family member, you can help by being supportive,” Bond said. “You can provide resources, let them know what help is available and encourage them to get assistance.”

Throughout the month many events will take place around town and on Peterson AFB. Handing out bookmarks at the entry gates and training opportunities will take place. A silent witness display, with human profile cutouts located in various locations representing victims of domestic abuse will take place as well.

For more information, or to seek help, call Family Advocacy at (719) 556-8943

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