To read this article directly on Forbes and/or to leave a comment, please click on this link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2012/12/05/domestic-violence-the-awareness-we-overlook/
It’s nearly impossible not to have noticed that October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone from the White House to NASCAR did their part to support it, and everything from newspapers to water fountains to NFL cleats were tinted pink to draw attention to the cause. After several years of this tremendously successful campaign, virtually everyone knows that breast cancer kills, and that nationwide, we stand against it.
Now just imagine if we took that same level of public outcry and fundraising to the issue of domestic violence.
Did you even realize that October was also Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Yes, the White House made its statement, but I imagine most Americans went through the month without a single thought to how this other scourge impacts women’s lives. Did the NFL –or any other professional sports team, for that matter –launch a special initiative? Will the NFL make any effort now, after the tragic death of Kasandra Perkins, Jovan Belcher’s girlfriend, made headlines this past weekend?
Unfortunately, I’m not expecting much. Neither is Jeffrey Friedman, Executive Director of The Retreat (http://www.theretreatinc.org), a domestic violence shelter in East Hampton, NY.
“Community denial runs deep when it comes to domestic violence,” he said. “In light of this weekend’s tragedy when NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before killing himself, it continues to be clear, that now more than ever The Retreat and other domestic violence service providers need your help. If you looked at the number of people affected by domestic violence and applied it to other tragic circumstances like terrorism or gang violence, our country would be up in arms and it would be the front page story every single day.”
The statistics tell the story. Over the last two years, The Retreat has seen a stunning 96 percent increase in calls to its local domestic violence hotline. Fortunately, The Retreat has been there to answer every one of those 3,162 calls.
But, across the United States, every day, thousands of women who have taken the bold step to ask for help, are being turned away with regret by domestic violence service agencies that cannot handle the demand for services.
“During a random September day last year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence reported that more than 22,000 calls were answered by local domestic violence hotlines, and on that same day, more than 9,500 requests for services were unmet due to inadequate funding or staff available to assist these survivors,” Friedman explains. “Our priorities are highlighted in our community when we fund, through both government grants and private donations, over two dozen animal shelters while the one domestic violence shelter in the area (The Retreat) struggles to meet demand. What does it say about us when our local animal shelter can raise twice as much funds as the domestic violence service provider?”
And of course, it’s not just animal shelters. You probably knew October was National Breast cancer Awareness Month. You probably did not know that among other things, last month was American Diabetes Month, National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, National Epilepsy Awareness Month, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, National Adoption Month and No-Shave November!
Among this sea of causes, is it any wonder you missed The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, tucked into the month’s busy awareness agenda on November 25?
In 1999, the United Nations formally designated November 25 to mark the cause of ending violence against women worldwide. Domestic violence is recognized to be a serious international problem, and the U.N. hopes to rally governments of all nations to end violence against women and girls around the globe.
Of course, my own work focuses closer to home. And, please don’t get me wrong. I’m pleased and grateful we pay so much attention to breast cancer and other causes. My point is that I wish we could talk openly about domestic violence on a similar scale. Like the diseases we’ve all been recognizing over the past two months, domestic violence is a serious public health problem. Unlike these other conditions, however, its remedy does not lie in medicine. Instead, raising awareness and lifting the social stigma felt by domestic violence survivors would go a long way to a “cure.”
Let’s put the issue in perspective. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, there are about 1.9 million new diagnoses of diabetes, about 208,000 of lung cancer, and about 140,000 of epilepsy in one year. By contrast, there are 1.3 million victims of domestic assault every year. One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease; one in four American women will experience domestic violence in her life.
Clearly, domestic violence merits attention. But, regrettably, it just doesn’t get the media attention that comes to the other causes.
I’m often asked why women in abusive relationships don’t leave. People wonder why an abused woman doesn’t just pack her bags and leave. If it’s so bad, isn’t that what any woman would do? Some even think the woman may have done something to deserve the abuse. (See other possible reasons why women stay with their abusers here.)
The simple truth is this: 1) No one, ever, “deserves” abuse, and 2) most women can’t just pack their bags and leave. It can be extraordinarily difficult for women in abusive marriages to get a divorce, no matter how much they want to leave the relationship. As a Divorce Financial Strategist™, I’ve had clients who were trying to extricate themselves from abusive marriages, and I’ve seen firsthand how trapped and powerless these women feel. Many live under the threat of physical violence if their husbands discover their plans.
Remember, too, that domestic violence is ultimately about power and control. An abusive husband may control his victim in part by making sure she is completely dependent on him financially. She may have no information about the marital finances, and no access to money or credit of her own. Often, ending a marriage to an abusive, controlling spouse can seem practically impossible.
The good news is that there IS help for women in abusive marriages who want to regain control of their personal finances. If you’re involved in a physically and/or mentally abusive marriage, please seek help. There are community-based organizations, private counselors, therapists and other professionals who can offer the immediate assistance you need. They’ll help you create a plan that will keep you and your children safe. Then, you can start taking steps towards a divorce and a brighter, more financially secure future.
In addition, please note that because it’s so important to me to raise awareness of domestic violence and help women in abusive relationships, I have founded a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc., specifically to help female victims of domestic violence and the organizations that support them. Half the profits from sales of my new book, Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally–What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, And After Divorce, will go directly to that fund.
Jeff is the author of the new book, Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally – What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, And After Divorce, which provides women going through the crisis of divorce with the tools they need to secure their financial future. What’s more, he is donating 50% of all profits to the Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity whose mission is to help abused women successfully and permanently leave their abusers.
That mission is accomplished by supporting other 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that provide short and intermediate-term housing and related services (counseling, childcare, job assistance, etc.) to female victims of domestic abuse and their children.
All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.