Each year, our nation recognizes October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). For decades, DVAM has been a tool for raising public awareness of the epidemic of domestic violence in our country, and to educate individuals on the impact and prevention of domestic violence in our communities. By raising awareness, we help shed light on the problem and create an atmosphere where victims feel safer coming forward, and more perpetrators are held accountable.

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and most domestic violence cases are never reported to the police. 99 percent of those women have little access to or control over their finances, making it extremely challenging to escape the abuse. Additionally, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) is the sole domestic violence and rape crisis provider for Oswego County. SAF provides both residential and non-residential services to victims and survivors, both via the Crisis Hotline, and in person. In 2019, SAF received 3,500 hotline calls from consumers, served over 600 people, and provided 1,400 bed nights for 82 families in the domestic violence shelter. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the need for services continues to grow. Hotline calls come in daily, and advocates are working tirelessly to meet the unique needs of survivors. SAF also offers a wide variety of free professional and community trainings regarding services and the realities of experiencing domestic violence.

There are many who believe domestic violence is exclusively physical battering. The truth is: domestic violence shows its face in many ways. One tactis an abuser will use is financial abuse.

For instance, controlling funds, not allowing the victim access to work or bank accounts, or running up debt in the victim’s name. Emotional abuse is also present in most abusive relationships. For example, making the victim feel like they are crazy, worthless, hopeless and responsible for the abuse. By recognizing that every domestic violence situation is unique, we can give support and resources to a wide variety of survivors with different backgrounds and experiences.

The connections between domestic violence and racial oppression are strong. While recognizing and bringing awareness to domestic violence, it is crucial to use this time to also acknowledge the past and current systematic oppression of Black lives in this country, as well as take responsibility for our own actions that further this violence and find ways to address it. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), Black women experience higher rates of intimate partner homicide when compared to their white counterparts, experiencing intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. As anti-violence advocates, we must work together to change attitudes, behaviors, and systems. The first step in ending institutionalized racism is naming and rejecting these messages and behaviors; all forms of oppression are connected and we must stand united against all forms of injustice.

SAF will be offering trainings to community providers throughout the month, and continuing to spread awareness using billboards, bus shelters and social media. Follow SAF on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to participate in awareness month activities.

Domestic Violence affects everyone. It impacts people from every community and is perpetrated by abusers from all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence or stalking, please call the Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential.

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