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A sea of pink, but where’s the purple?

October 4, 2010
Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Image by heraldpost via Flickr

I was at the Eagles vs. Redskins game yesterday (an absolutely awful game that I have no desire to relive, so I won’t), but while there I was overcome by a wave of pink – ribbons, hats, jerseys, scoreboards, scarves, t-shirts, etc. I quickly deduced that it must be Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The NFL, like all the major sports leagues, has done an exemplary job of bringing to the spotlight treatable medical conditions where people will benefit from being reminded to get a check-up or doing a self-exam. For my part, I’m happy to know several breast cancer survivors, and I thank God everyday they were treated successfully for the disease, thanks in large part to early detection.

But while bathed in the pink aura of Lincoln Financial Field, I couldn’t help but think, where’s the purple?

Why purple? That’s the color signifying Domestic Violence Awareness month, which shares October with its pink cousin.

In defense of those of you who didn’t know this was Domestic Violence Awareness month, you’re not alone. You rarely see it in print. I probably wouldn’t know about it myself if I hadn’t worked for Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, one of the few social service organizations in South Jersey that offers domestic violence services to victims AND offenders.

Domestic violence, like breast cancer, is an insidious disease that affects far more families than you probably realize. Like cancer 20 years ago, domestic violence is rarely discussed beyond whispers and often kept quiet because it’s so personal and tragic.

Most of us probably don’t remember what it was like before breast cancer became a mainstream topic. Women never wanted to discuss it and men were skeeved out by it. But thanks to the work of millions of volunteers, survivors, families of victims and institutions like the NFL, people proudly wear their pink and tell stories of success and failure, while leaning on one another for support.

Doesn’t this sound like something we can rally around for those affected by domestic violence? I don’t suggest it in lieu of breast cancer, simply with the same vigor and notoriety.

Here are some sobering stats:

  • In a 1995-1996 study conducted in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime (based on survey of 16,000 participants, equally male and female). []
  • Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women in 2001. []
  • Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate partner was more than three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined in single victim/single offender incidents in 2002. []
  • In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knows the perpetrator. Of people who report sexual violence, 64% of women and 16% of men were raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date. []
  • 18-24 year-olds comprised only 11.7% of the population in 1998 and 2002, but were the majority of victims of violence committed by a boyfriend or girlfriend (42%). []
  • It is estimated that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self neglect reported to authorities, about five more go unreported. []
  • Children exposed to maternal Intimate Partner Violence, without experiencing child maltreatment, were 40% more likely to have a total behavioral problem score within the borderline to clinical range than normative children. []

So please, take an interest in what’s going on with your family, children and friends. You may not realize it, but they may be victims. They may be the abusers. There may be no signs. There may be signs the size of billboards that we’ve chosen to turn our gaze from. But start the discussion, ask how they’re doing, look for the signs, don’t be afraid to be wrong, don’t try to be a hero, just try to be a help.

There are many resources available to victims of abuse. In NJ you can find options in every county by going to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Elsewhere you can go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY).

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