In October 1981, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence organized the first Day of Unity, a day to bring together battered women advocates from around the United States. As happens with important issues, the Day of Unity quickly grew in content, engagement and time. The Day became a Week. Then National Meeting became an organized set of activities and events in local communities. The participants expanded from advocates to include victims, community members, local leaders, and more. The support for the week continued to grow, and in 1987 the week became a month dedicated to remembering victims, celebrating survivors, and connecting the many people working to end domestic violence. Finally, in 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the first commemorative legislation identifying October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

So, this time every year, in an effort to raise awareness of the negative impact of domestic violence on individuals, families, and communities, there is an increased sharing of personal accounts of victims and statistics that include:

  • An average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. (source)
  • 9.4% of high school students reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt intentionally by their partner in the previous 12 months. (source)
  • 40% of child abuse victims also report experiencing domestic violence. (source)

We also hear about the financial impact of domestic violence, which according to the CDC, includes:

  • The lifetime economic cost associated with medical services, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice, and other costs, was $3.6 trillion.
  • The cost of domestic violence over a victim’s lifetime was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men.

Since 2020 has been filled with so many challenges and harsh realities, this year, Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence has decided that instead of just sharing the cruel realities of this community disease, we are going to share the successes experienced. For example, in Fiscal Year 2020:

  • 440 victims of family violence took the first steps to creating a future without violence, contacting MSCFV for help for themselves and their 687 children.
  • Among clients completing stays at MSCFV’s shelter, the majority reported
  • learning more ways to plan for their safety (74%), feel less isolated (66%) and feel better about themselves (72%)
  • having a better understanding of their legal rights (74%). Most (75%) have learned about resources that can help them and nearly two-thirds (63%) have a lower risk of violence.
  • Of the people that contacted MSCFV’s 24/7/365 hotline (1-800-927-HOPE), 86% received additional counseling, 88% received follow up services, and 38% had an advocate accompany them to court.
  • 68% of victims with MSCFV representation at their FPO hearings had their protective orders granted. This percentage is remarkably higher than the 47% of final protective orders granted statewide.
  • 32 MSCFV Economic Empowerment Center Program (EEC) clients received some type of monetary benefit, with accumulated total benefits of $375,246, including $206,599 in lump sum payments, $164,830 in cost savings and $3,817 in monthly payments.
  • 69% of EEC clients, upon completion of their work with the program, reported improvement in their family’s financial situation. Additional outcomes include:
  • 50% increased ability to meet basic expenses
  • 31% increased ability to save
  • 33% increased ability to meet unexpected expenses
  • 39% increased standard of living
  • 43% decreased financial worry

And while the COVID pandemic and quarantine brought out the worst in abusers, with the rates of domestic violence sharply rising while victims felt trapped in their homes, it also brought out the best in our community members, with:

  • Almost 100 businesses in the five counties displaying and/or shared MSCFV information with their clients.
  • Restaurants placing over 10,000 Hotline Stickers on their To-Go containers.
  • Community members, businesses, government agencies and more regularly sharing information MSCFV information on their Social Media sites.
  • School and school-based programs in all five counties distributed a flier created in partnership with For All Seasons and Local Health Departments, so community members knew that the quarantine did not stop services for people experiencing family violence, sexual assault, mental health challenges, child abuse, or other challenges. This flier was also distributed to every person that received a COVID test from the Dorchester County Health Department.

These are just some of the things we should be celebrating as we join the nation in honoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the personal arena, we could also celebrate the new house purchased by a survivor, the re-established relationship between a survivor and their teenager that left to be safe, and the new jobs resulting from the new skills learned after they left the abuse. We could celebrate the first nights of great sleep in a safe home, the first shopping trips where survivors could pick what they wanted to purchase, and the reclaimed friendships after years of isolation.

So in this year of anxiety and uncertainty, let’s celebrate all the successes more than we deliberate the failures. Let’s remember the people we lost while cheering on those that have found their safe futures. Let’s commit to continuing our work together well beyond this National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, until relational violence of all forms is no more and all victims are empowered to become self-sufficient survivors. Let’s make this month, and 2020, a year to remember not because of COVID or the divisions that separate us, but for the way we build bridges and share hope.

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