As the first days of October approach, many are preparing for warm, happy fall events. The month brings about thoughts of apple picking, corn mazes, scarves, pumpkin flavored goodies and Halloween. However, amongst the many fall activities, October also serves as an important awareness month for an issue that deserves just as much attention, if not more.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Also known as intimate partner violence, domestic or relationship abuse, domestic violence is defined by The National Domestic Violence Hotline as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” Domestic violence can have many appearances; it can look like physical harm, emotional abuse, threats and intimidation, economic deprivation, the use of fear and more.
One in four women and one in nine men experience violence from their partners in their lifetime. One in five women are survivors of rape. One in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence, according to NoMore.org. The list of statistics like these, unfortunately, could go on for some time. Because of this, Congress designated October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989. In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was brought into law, which established a fund for social service agencies that support victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Outside of government, private institutions have taken it upon themselves to form help and advocacy centers to help bring survivors of domestic violence the help and justice they need. The Domestic Violence Awareness Project is a national organization that helps support the “national, tribal, territorial, state and local advocacy networks in their ongoing public education efforts through public awareness, strategies, materials, resources, capacity-building, and technical assistance,” according to their website. The organization helps run campaigns to change public opinion and belief systems that support or propagate violence and abuse, as well as hosts events, trainings and workshops.
NO MORE is another global organization comprised of nonprofits, corporations, government agencies, media, schools and individuals. They work to end domestic violence and sexual assault through media campaigns, community engagement, grassroots activism and fundraising, outreach and more.
These organizations serve as stepping stones for large cultural change, and are leading the nation, and hopefully the world, down the path of understanding and bringing an end to domestic violence.
Maine is not exempt from domestic violence. In order to combat this, Maine has many laws surrounding domestic violence, threatening, terrorizing, stalking and assault. Penalties can result in jail time between one and five years, and fines between $2,000 and $5,000. However, despite these laws to protect victims, Maine citizens are still in danger of experiencing domestic violence.
In 2017, half of Maine’s homicides were domestic violence related. Nine deaths, including the deaths of a seven-week-old baby and a four-year-old child, were classified as domestic violence homicides, according to the Bangor Daily News. Another BDN article written in 2016 states: “despite having one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country, domestic abuse accounts for a large proportion of violence in our state. The rates of domestic violence assault and domestic homicide are higher in Maine communities than in the rest of the country.”
It is important to also consider college campuses as locations where domestic assault exists. According to an article published by the Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC) organization, “college-aged women have the highest per-capita rate of intimate partner violence.” The article also goes on to state that 21 percent of college students report having experienced dating violence by a current partner and 32 percent report having experienced dating violence by an ex-partner– and these are only the statistics of those who report. The sense of college campus community can often prevent students from reporting for fear of repercussions from friend groups or social media communities. Beyond that, 70 percent of young victims may not even realize they are being abused.
Domestic and sexual assault can be more prevalent on campuses than we care to admit. However, there are centers and organizations right here in the Orono area or on the University of Maine campus to help those in need. According to breakthecycle.org, 58 percent of college students do not know what to do to help someone who is a victim of domestic violence, and 28 percent don’t know how to find help for themselves.
UMaine’s Counseling Center is a confidential resource center on campus, with experienced staff ready to provide services and programs in professional and relaxed settings. The Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m., and can be reached by phone at 207-581-1392.
The Office of Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention is another UMaine resource for those who may be concerned about themselves or their friends being involved in domestic or sexual abuse. This office provides support, resources and referrals, and can help answer questions and concerns. They can be found in the Memorial Union, or at 207-581-1406.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are not light topics. They occur every day all around us, and the UMaine community should understand the responsibility of educating themselves to be ready to help those who may be in need, including themselves. Take this October as a time to start working towards a safer community for all.