October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of domestic violence in our community and remind survivors that they are not alone.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone at any time and impacts individuals of all races and ethnicities, religions, socio-economic statuses and gender identities. It occurs in rural, suburban, and urban communities.
According the Sara Grady, LMSW, director, domestic violence prevention and intervention services, Child & Family Services Haven House, stigma greatly impacts victims reaching out for help.
“We hear from victims often that they experience feelings of shame, guilt, and responsibility related to being a domestic violence victim,” Grady said. “This is why it is so important to widely educate our community that domestic violence is never the victim’s fault. Nothing that a victim does warrants them experiencing abuse. Nothing.”
Grady explains that domestic violence and abuse occur because the perpetrator makes a choice to abuse the victim in order to gain and maintain power and control over the victim. It is also so important to share information about the prevalence of domestic violence because of the stigma that can exist around being a domestic violence victim.
In addition, victims commonly experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and complex trauma as a result of their domestic violence.
For individuals who have an existing mental health diagnosis such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, domestic violence can greatly acerbate their systems.
“There is a great deal of stigma around domestic violence and mental illness,” said Jessica Stritzinger, supervising counselor, advocate department, Crisis Services. “While we have made some progress as a society, the stigma of domestic violence is still prevalent. Survivors may be afraid to ask friends, family or their doctor for help because they are ashamed or embarrassed,” she said.
According the Stritzinger, there is a correlation between mental illness and domestic violence, but combined services are currently not available.
This is especially challenging during the pandemic as incidences of domestic violence have increased.
“Our crisis hotline has seen a huge increase in calls,” she said. “We normally experience 600-700 calls per month, since the pandemic began, we are receiving upwards of 1,000 – 1,100 calls.”
New text/chat lines have been added by New York State to support domestic violence survivors during the pandemic. You can reach the NYS Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-942-6909, or text 844-997-2121.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is important because it provides the opportunity to educate the community about the prevalence of domestic violence and the resources available in the community to assist victims of domestic violence and family and friends who may be concerned that a loved one is experiencing domestic violence.
Anyone – a victim or someone concerned about someone they care about – can reach out to domestic violence service providers for support, safety planning, education, and resources.
Haven House is available 24/7 by phone at 716-884-6000 or chat at on their website.
“It’s really important for folks to understand that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence,” Grady said. “While statistics show that anywhere from 85-95% of domestic violence survivors are women, we know that men are also impacted by domestic violence. Domestic violence is also more prevalent than people may realize – 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the US will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.”
Most likely, everyone knows someone who has been affected by domestic violence.