October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to make ourselves more aware of the prevalence of domestic violence and how it can be prevented.
A major misconception is that domestic violence occurs only in poor families. That is not true at all. Domestic violence is a societal affliction that plagues families of all incomes, races and ages.
One thing that is true, though, about domestic violence is that it is a learned behavior. If a son sees his father abusing his mother, a pattern of behavior is established in his mind, particularly if he sees that behavior at an early age. When that young man enters a dating relationship, he may mimic that same behavior, thinking it is appropriate when it is really not.
Domestic violence is not only physical. It can be manipulative and emotional in nature. And abusers are not limited to men. Women can also be the abuser, and the real tragedy of that is that men are afraid of admitting they are abused.
Just as domestic violence has been on the rise, funding has been cut back. There are fewer and fewer resources available - like shelters - to accommodate victims of domestic violence.
That doesn't mean though that we can't act together to prevent this tragedy from happening.
First of all, we should keep an open line of communication with our neighbors. It could be something as simple as asking them over for coffee, bringing them a basket of fresh-baked rolls or giving them a casserole. When the lines of communication are open, people feel freer to talk.
Second, we should report any abuse that we see (or hear) to the police. This doesn't include gossip or hearsay, of course, but what we in fact know to be true.
Finally, we can get involved. Obviously, this doesn't mean putting ourselves in harm's way. What it does mean is volunteering to work a domestic violence hotline, volunteering as a public speaker on domestic violence issues or volunteering as a mentor.
If you're a victim of domestic or sexual assault, call the CAASA hotline at 877-362-4612.
If you would like to be a CAASA volunteer, call 712-262-4612.