By Joseph M. Costa, Hillsides President and CEO
Domestic violence is an issue that is difficult to address because of the stigma and shame associated with it. However, as painful and disturbing as it is, this issue is a crucial one for us to talk about. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Domestic violence often occurs alongside child abuse and neglect, further compounding the trauma. (Thirty – 60 percent of children from homes where domestic abuse is present are also victims of abuse themselves, according to the Prevent Child Abuse America.®) In addition, children who witness domestic violence are at risk for a host of issues such as anxiety, depression, and aggression.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For all too many of our clients, domestic violence is a painful reality. One of the programs Hillsides offers helps adults who have been overwhelmed address whatever the presenting issue is while also getting back into the workforce. An employee working in this program shared with me the case of a woman, a victim of domestic violence, who sought out our assistance. Not only had she fled out of state to avoid an abusive relationship, but one of her two children was being treated for a serious illness. Relocated to California, she found herself exhausting what money she had, homeless, living out of her car with her two children, desperate and overwhelmed. Because of the skillful team of therapists and case workers in this program, we were able to help this client address her depression, get into a shelter and eventually into permanent housing, receive medical treatment for her son, go back to school, and secure a job.
It has been a long and difficult road for this woman and her children. There were times when she second-guessed the strategy and considered returning to the relationship she abandoned because at least it was a familiar refuge. With the support and guidance of our staff, she was encouraged to persevere. She now benefits from her courageous efforts, feeling confident of her capacity to confront hardship and improve her life. For those who have survived domestic violence, the greatest achievement is the ability to move on confidently to a better life.
During this month, when we draw attention to the issue of domestic violence, let us create an environment where those affected by violence can feel safe to reveal their painful stories, benefit from our support, and know our commitment to tangibly improve their lives. For more information on domestic violence, please visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. To report domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit https://www.thehotline.org/. For advice on what to do if you suspect someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, please take a look at a recent Hillsides blog post, “Seven Expert Tips on How to Help a Friend or Family Experiencing Domestic Violence.”