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The National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV) identifies domestic violence as the willful intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault or other abusive behavior by an intimate partner or family member against another.
While issues such as substance abuse, financial hardship and poverty may exacerbate domestic violence – they are not the sole cause. In fact, many people who make the decision to batter feel the need to dominate and control based on their own insecurities and low self-esteem. People who chose to abuse often learn violent behavior (early on in life) from their family, people in their community and other cultural influences.
More often than not domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma and sometimes death. The acts of abuse cross generations and may last a lifetime. Exposing (young) children to acts of domestic violence sends conflicting social signals about what is acceptable versus what is unacceptable. Further, it clearly perpetuates the destructive cycle of physical and mental abuse of which girls and boys are equally susceptible to experience – typically in ways that are specific to gender.
One way that we as a collective force can effectively deal with the issue of domestic violence is to turn to the resources that examine and address it from the root. As we pause this year to recognize October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we must also recognize the importance of raising awareness and advancing victim services statewide.
Enhanced programming ensures that survivors are connected to service providers and allows them to take the first step of action to end abuse. Support services also alert survivors to the options and resources that are available to them. Awareness efforts bring the issue of domestic violence to the forefront of dialogue. Awareness can alter our collective social consciousness and cause people to reevaluate the way they behave and the behaviors they accept.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute extends a special thanks to the many service providers who make success possible and in most instances, are the first responders to meet victims at their time of need. These individuals advance the cause in many ways. Not only do they spearhead awareness efforts but they offer hope to victims and their families at the most critical time, which ultimately promotes healing. Service providers truly are an integral part of the progress that Indiana has made in confronting and combating domestic violence.
As the state’s planning and administering agency for VOCA (Victims of Crime Act), STOP (Service, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) Violence Against Women funding and the four Domestic Violence federal and state funding programs, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s (ICJI) Victim Services division administers $16.5 million from seven different funding streams, awarding nearly 400 grants each year to programs throughout the state.
In addition to VOCA and STOP the divsion also administers SASP (Sexual Assault Services Program) and the four Domestic Violence federal and state funding programs, which include: Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment (DVPT); Fund Federal Family Violence (FFV); Sexual Assault Services (SOS); and Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). Awards from these funding streams support programs throughout the state that serve victims of domestic violence, interpersonal violence and other victims of crime.
VOCA remains a key funding source for services that help victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and other offenses cope with the aftermath of crime.From July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2011, VOCA funded programs served more than 58,800 victims of domestic violence.
The STOP grant program funds coordinate community responses to supporting police officers, prosecutors, courts and victim services. In addition, STOP is the largest funding source supporting violence against women in Indiana to combat domestic and sexual violence. In 2010, STOP funded programs served 10,027 victims of domestic violence.
ICJI’s four domestic violence programs provided 214,444 shelter nights to victims and their children as well many support services.
In 2010, there were a total 20,389 violent crimes in Indiana reported to law enforcement. That is a rate of 314.5 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants [Source: FBI’s UCR data]. This number includes: 292 murders; 1,761 forcible rapes; 6,219 robberies and; 12,117 aggravated assaults.
Domestic violence is another aspect of violent crime that must not be overlooked. According to the Center for Disease Control, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. Even more challenging, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment for injuries.
According to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there were 62 deaths in Indiana related to domestic violence from July 1, 2011 thru June 30, 2012, no change from the same period a year ago.
From July 1, 2011 thru June 30, 2012, Indiana domestic violence emergency shelters served 6,186 women and 4,724 children. A total of 964 victims were denied shelter because shelters were over capacity.
ICJI conducted the state’s first Victimization Survey in early 2011.
The 2011 National Census of Domestic Violence Services reports that 67,399 victims were served nationwide on one day, September 15, 2011. In Indiana, 100 percent of shelters reported serving 1,839 adults and children victims of domestic violence on that date. Programs were unable to meet all requests for services for many reasons - 37 percent of the programs reported not enough funds for programs and services, 30 percent reported not enough staff and 15 percent reported no available beds or funding for hotels. (National Network to End Domestic Violence).
The reported figures reflect but a fraction of the real picture. Far too often, many victims of domestic violence do not report the crime to police nor do they reveal their physical injuries to their personal physicians. Their reluctance to do so often stems from fear of retaliation, stigmatism, or shame. According to the NCADV approximately one fourth of all physical assaults are reported to police. Yet, nothing can be gained from suffering in silence.
The effects of domestic violence can touch any person, regardless of race, age, gender, or social economic status; domestic violence defies the boundaries of our daily lives. The cycle of violence continues to be grossly under reported as a crime and as the demographics of our nation’s population changes.
Victims and advocates face special challenges this October, as we commemorate another National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The continuing recession creates extra hardships for victims who may not have the resources or the mobility to leave their abuser; and for advocates who are trying to meet the growing demand for safe refuge and other domestic violence services with dwindling funding.
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is about confronting the trends that stall progress. That is why we must remain vigilant in our efforts across the state to raise the profile of domestic abuse and hold perpetrators accountable. We cannot afford to ignore or avoid this type of violence, as dismissing the issue only brings about apathy. Domestic violence affects all sectors of our society - but education, awareness and diligence are what can bring about change.
Ultimately, domestic violence is a varied and complex issue – yet the acts of domestic violence belong to us all. It is not simply a legal problem, a health issue or a law enforcement dilemma.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is one of many entities that serve as a catalyst for outreach and advocacy. The complexities of sexual and domestic violence are clearly bigger than any one victims’ advocate, service provider, governmental agency, or social-service organization can handle alone.
Imagine how much better off we would be as a state and society as a whole if we could educate and raise awareness across all socio-economic and cultural lines in order to adequately serve all victims and quash domestic violence at its roots.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) evolved from the "Day of Unity" in October 1981 conceived by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became an entire week devoted to a range of activities conducted at the local, state, and national levels.
In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. That same year marks the initiation of the first national domestic violence toll-free hotline. In 1989 the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 101-112 designating October of that year as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Such legislation has passed every year since with NCADV providing key leadership in this effort. Each year, the Day of Unity is celebrated the first Monday of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.