6 Ways To Become An Advocate This Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Nearly three out of four Americans know someone who has been the victim of domestic violence or is themselves a victim. This month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) wants you to be a supporter and advocate of those survivors. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, which was initiated in 1981 by the NCADV as a day of unity that connected battered women’s advocates nationally. Today, it is a call to educate, advocate, and enact change. These are just seven ways to answer that call this month and every month. 

1. Learn the definition of domestic violence. 

To become an ally and an advocate, it is necessary to first understand what domestic violence looks like. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), is defined as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”  Domestic violence is not just physical and it does not discriminate. Any race, gender, age, and sexual orientation can be a perpetrator of violence or the victim. Types of abuse include physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. 

2. Know the signs of a volatile relationship. 

Abusive relationships are based on power and control. These things can seem small and insignificant at the beginning of the relationship, but can quickly turn into possessive, jealous, humiliating, and abusive actions. If you feel like your partner’s behaviors may be abusive, loveisrespect suggests you connect with your support system, focus on your needs, and consider breaking up. It can be hard to leave an abusive relationship, but remember that it is important for you to feel safe, loved, and respected in a relationship. Love is not power and control. Love is respect and equality. 

3. Educate yourselves and others on creating healthy relationships.

Once you know the signs of a volatile relationship, take the next step and learn how to create a healthy relationship. The One Love foundation, which was created in honor of Yeardley Love who was beaten to death in 2010 by her ex-boyfriend, empowers young people with the knowledge to recognize the signs of unhealthy AND healthy relationships. It outlines 10 general signs for a healthy relationship, ones that should be present in ALL relationships: a comfortable pace, trust, honesty, independence, respect, equality, compassion, responsibility, loyalty, and open communication. If you feel like one or more of these aspects may be missing in your relationship, consider talking with your partner or leaving the relationship if things have gotten abusive. 

Related: Domestic Violence Awareness Resources 

4. Hold the abuser accountable, not the victim. Challenge attitudes that victim blame. 

Survivors of domestic violence, like those of sexual assault, frequently face a culture of silence and blame. If a victim feels like they will not be taken seriously by law enforcement and other authorities, perhaps because they have seen that the abuser is frequently not punished or removed from the victim, the victim will be less likely to report. Furthermore, sometimes the abuser is well-liked or well-respected in the community and therefore, the victim is not believed. This has to end. There are stories that will never be told, victims that will never be heard, and abusers that will never be held accountable. Be a voice that contradicts the norm and believes survivors. Support legislation that offers greater protection and assistance for victims and that holds abusers accountable. 

5. Learn how to support a friend or loved one that has been in an abusive relationship or even still is in the relationship. 

Instinctually, you may immediately want to “save” the person from their abusive relationship. But it is not that easy. There is a multitude of reasons why a person might stay in an abusive relationship, so the first step to helping is to be non-judgemental. Acknowledge that the situation they are in is extremely difficult and show them you are there to offer support. Do not be yet another person yelling at them or telling them what to do. Be encouraging in engaging them with friends, family, and counseling or support groups. Be there for them, no matter what.

6. Support organizations that provide resources and protection for victims of domestic violence. 

Donating to organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline and One Love helps to keep resources like the hotline staffed and keeps domestic violence awareness in the conversation. Visit the websites or social media of these organizations to learn even more about domestic violence and how to continue being an advocate every day. 

If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship, know this: it is not your fault and you are not alone. You can reach out for confidential help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or get more information on support services on their website. The hotline is available 24/7/365.