Each year during the month of October, Putnam County Family Support Services' Domestic Violence Prevention Program as well as other domestic violence programs across the country join together to raise awareness about family violence.
Our goal is to educate communities about domestic violence in an effort to end the generational cycle of this devastating epidemic that pervades every community and touches every man, woman and child.
Domestic violence can be defined as physical battery, sexual assault, emotional, and psychological abuse. This violence escalates over a period of time and often ends in the death of the victim.
The effects of domestic violence on families are extensive. Individuals, especially children deal with severe emotional ramifications when exposed to violence within a family.
An estimated 3 million children witness domestic violence every year.
Last year, in Putnam County, a reported 146 children were witness to domestic violence, which is only a fraction of the actual number of children in our county who are witnessing violent assaults.
Children depend on adults for guidance in appropriate responses to behavior. Children in violent homes learn to parallel love with pain and physical force with problem solving.
Studies reveal that children from violent families often feel helpless, and can have high levels of fear, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. They are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and they comprise a high number of runaways, school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, and suicides. Many have a huge sense of guilt and believe that their parents' fights are their fault.
As these children grow older they fail to mature and develop at an emotionally healthy level. Childhood victims of family violence often bring the abuse into their own adult relationships.
A common misconception is that domestic violence only happens in low-income families and only in the "big city," but this is untrue.
Domestic violence occurs in all socioeconomic classes, and the prevalence of domestic violence in rural areas is high.
In 2009 Putnam County Family Support Services' Domestic Violence Prevention Program served 395 victims of violence in our own rural community.
Domestic violence will be continued from generation to generation and is a cycle that needs to be broken.
Many may be wondering, "Why don't victims just leave?"
Studies show that between 43 and 70 percent of victims do eventually end their relationship with a violent partner.
Leaving an abusive relationship is a process not an event that just happens overnight. Sometimes the "process" could take many years.
There are many valid reasons that keep victims trapped in an abusive environment. Some include:
* Because of the children: divorce hurts everyone.
* Because they don't want to be labeled as a failure by family and friends.
* Because they hope things will change.
* Because they blame themselves for the abuse.
* Because they love their home and the thought of leaving strikes fear.
* Because of economic dependence.
* Because of isolation: a victim's world is gradually narrowed isolating them from external support.
* Because their abuser has convinced family and friends that they are crazy and they feel no one will believe them. When actually the victim may suffer from depression, anxiety or PTSD directly caused from the abuse.
* Because a victim is busy day to day trying to survive the abuse and has no vision for a future life without violence.
There is a silent acceptance of domestic violence in our society. Unfortunately this silence gives perpetrators permission to continue their abusive behavior.
Putnam County Family Support Services' invites you to join the effort to combat domestic violence not only this month, but also as long as domestic violence is occurring in this community.
Family Support Services is a not-for-profit agency determined to stop family violence and prevent child abuse and neglect. Contact them at 653-4820 to learn more.