October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), a time to bring attention to a problem that far too often remains hidden and unacknowledged.
Domestic violence is threatening behavior by an intimate partner attempting to seek control over another. It can include emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, and threats of abuse or violence to children or pets.
One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women, and an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. However, domestic violence crosses all lines: It affects people regardless of gender, age, economic status, race, religion, nationality, educational background, or sexual orientation.
It is not just the adult victims who are affected. Thirty to sixty percent of the perpetrators of domestic violence also abuse the children in their homes. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
And the society, too, is affected. The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. Victims of domestic violence lost almost 8 million days of paid work because of the violence they suffered at the hands of their partners last year.
Sonoma County is not immune. Last year, law enforcement responded to over 3,000 domestic violence calls. It is the leading cause of injury to local women.
I work as a volunteer with the Sonoma County YWCA, which provides the only safe house in the county for women fleeing their abusers. They also provide counseling services, a 24-hour hotline, support groups, long-term housing assistance, outreach and education to the community, and a therapeutic preschool for children who are affected by violence.
As part of DVAM, I have helped to coordinate for the second year "Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Speak Out Against Domestic Violence." For three Fridays in October, women and men will share their stories in poetry, memoir and fiction about the impact of domestic violence. We did this for the first time last year, and it was extremely powerful, both for the writers, and for the members of the audience.
The readings are scheduled for:
Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts
6780 Depot St. in Sebastopol
Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance First Street Gallery
105 East First Street, Cloverdale
Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. at Copperfield's Books
Montgomery Village, in their new location, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa
I invite you to come to one of these nights and hear the brave words of these writers for yourselves. They will challenge you, and inspire you.
For more information about other events going on for DVAM throughout the county, visit theYWCA website.