You may have seen the purple signs cropping up around the area announcing that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with a phone number that people can call if they are a victim or know someone who is.
That there even is a Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a sign of progress. Domestic violence is now something that is stigmatized and people are working to eradicate. It’s no longer something that is quietly kept behind closed doors. It’s no longer shrugged off as a tool that (mostly) men deploy to keep obstreperous spouses or romantic partners in line. Domestic violence is taken seriously now in a way it wasn’t just a handful of decades ago.
The statistics surrounding domestic violence in the United States provide little room for cheer, however. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has reported that a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States about every nine seconds, and about 20 Americans are subject to physical abuse by their partners every minute. Typically, domestic violence hotlines field about 20,000 calls every day across the country. And if there is a gun in a home where domestic violence occurs, the odds that an incident will end in death skyrockets by 500%. When you add it all up, domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
From all indications, rates of domestic violence have increased over the last 18 months due to the stresses brought on by the pandemic. According to an estimate by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, incidents of domestic violence increased by 8% once lockdowns were put in place. The United Nations has reported that domestic violence escalated 20% across the world in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
In 2016, Washington County residents learned how domestic violence can become deadly when Tierne Ewing was abducted by her estranged husband, Kevin Ewing, and shot to death in a barn in West Finley. Just two months before, Tierne’s husband held her hostage for nearly two weeks and tortured her before she was able to get help. Her death led to the creation of Tierne’s Law, which gives judges risk-assessment guidelines that can be used to determine whether a defendant in a domestic violence case should be barred from making contact with a victim. If someone who is accused does make contact, their bail can be revoked and they can be jailed.
Resources are available for those who need help. Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania offers a 24-hour hotline – 800-791-4900 – as well as temporary safe houses, counseling and support groups, legal advocacy, community education and training programs, transportation, and food, clothing and personal items.
Perhaps one of the best ways to stop domestic violence is for parents to set a good example for their own children. While it’s inevitable that a couple will have disagreements and sometimes get on each other’s nerves, seeking to resolve arguments, or relieve frustration, through violence is not right and is never acceptable.
While October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we must be vigilant every month.