October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (NDVAM). Although the first NDVAM was more than 30 years ago, domestic violence remains a serious problem throughout the United States, including right here in southeast Kansas.

Fortunately, our region is well-served by several nonprofit organizations committed to educating the public about domestic violence and empowering victims to escape from abusive relationships and begin the road to recovery. This post provides some basic information about domestic violence with links to further resources, including links to local, regional, and national organizations that can help victims and survivors of domestic violence.

What is domestic violence?

Often when people hear the phrase domestic violence, they think of physical abuse. But that understanding is too narrow. The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence explains that domestic violence is “a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior used to gain dominance, power, and control over an intimate partner.”

That includes physical violence, but other behaviors are often a part of that pattern, too. According to Rebecca Brubaker, executive director of Safehouse Crisis Center, domestic violence is a progressive crime. That means that an abuser’s behavior tends to get worse over time, rather than starting out as physical abuse.

For example, what may begin as emotional abuse, like name-calling or gaslighting, may develop into intimidation, threats, or destruction of property, and only later escalate to physical or sexual violence.

What are the impacts of domestic violence?

Like the definition of domestic violence, the consequences of domestic violence are broader than many people may realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence “is a major public health problem affecting millions of people in the United States each year.” A 2015 CDC report (PDF) found the following impacts, among others:

  • Fear or concern about safety.
  • One or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Physical injuries, including injuries requiring medical attention.
  • A need for housing, victim-advocacy, or legal services.
  • Missing at least one day of work or school.

How common is domestic violence in southeast Kansas?

Figuring out exactly how common domestic violence is can be tricky. Between 2013 and 2017 (the last year for which statistics are available), Kansas police reported an average of nearly 23,000 incidents of domestic violence each year to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI).

Of those, more than 1,300 were reported during the typical year in the 11 southeast-Kansas counties served by Safehouse Crisis Center and Hope Unlimited.

But the KBI’s figures only include incidents that were reported by victims to police, and then by police to the KBI. And according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, just over half of domestic-violence incidents are ever reported to police.

That means that the real figure is likely much higher than the number reported by the KBI. In fact, the CDC estimates that more than 1 in 3 women, and about 1 in 3 men, “experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.”

Resources for victims of domestic violence

Being the victim of domestic violence can leave a person feeling afraid, isolated, and trapped. Fortunately, a nationwide network of victim-advocacy organizations has developed over the last few decades to educate the public about domestic violence and provide support for victims. Those organizations include:

Local resources

Regional resources

National resources