Do your part to end domestic violence

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

It’s not uncommon to read or hear stories of women and men who have been victims of domestic violence.

While domestic violence may seem like a far-off issue to some, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported in 2010 that “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.” As if that wasn’t enough, in 2013 it was also recorded that one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some type of physical violence by a partner during their lifetime.

Odds are you, or someone you know, will experience domestic violence in some way or another. These statistics are heartbreaking, though not permanent. There are many ways you can do your part to end this abuse, as well as in help victims’ families piece their lives back together and get a fresh start.

For those unfamiliar with what domestic violence entails, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines it as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats and emotional abuse.”

Spotting domestic violence can sometimes be difficult, but the National Domestic Violence Hotline lists numerous forms of abuse, spanning from physical actions like hair pulling or hitting, to controlling every aspect of a partner’s life from access to money to eating habits. Along with getting involved and assisting victims, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of abuse in your own relationship, as well as for your friends and family. Leaving a situation that involves domestic violence can be dangerous and challenging, and having the support of a loved one could save someone’s life.

In Texas alone, there are more than 50 domestic violence programs, one of which is located right here in Waco: The Waco Family Abuse Center. According to its website, this program aims to “eliminate domestic violence in Central Texas by sheltering victims of domestic violence and by preventing abuse from occurring through intervention and education.”

Families affected by domestic violence can stay for free at the Waco Family Abuse Center for as long as their specific situation requires, and there are mental, legal, financial and other forms of assistance available for the center’s residents.

The Waco Family Abuse Center has plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, offering volunteers the option to work with children, operate the telephone hotline or even assist with meal preparation. Certainly, there is a bit of training involved, but it’s important to note that domestic violence isn’t something you have to travel far away to see; It occurs right here in Waco. And just as you don’t have to go very far to see the effects of domestic violence, you also don’t have to go very far to make your own impact in the fight against domestic violence.

If volunteering isn’t quite your thing, organizations like the Family Abuse Center also accept donations of food, money, clothes and other items a family might need. Some domestic violence centers are nonprofits and rely solely on donations to continue offering their services. Even donating $5 every once in a while can make a difference, as some families have had to leave their situations abruptly, unable to take any of their personal belongings with them.

Many of these programs also host outreach events to raise awareness for their services and to promote to domestic violence in general. These events have even been held on Baylor’s campus in the last few years, such as Alpha Chi Omega’s Block Party last October, from which all proceeds went to the Waco Family Abuse Center. Attending these outreach events can be fun and ultimately bring more awareness to this issue that affects more than 10 million women and men each year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

One of the Waco Family Abuse Center’s mottos is “Love shouldn’t hurt.” Domestic violence has become all too common in the United States. By doing your part by volunteering or donating, you can make a difference in ending domestic violence and help redefine love as something beautiful, not something painful.