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Domestic violence, more prevalent than you think

Domestic violence is an alarming and pervasive problem in our country.

National data reports that, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S. Over the course of a year, that equates to more than 12 million women and men.

In just one day across the U.S., the national Census counts in 2011 reported more than 67,000 victims of domestic violence sought services from domestic violence programs and shelters. At the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP), advocates responded to 169 crisis calls and served a total of 420 victims last year. Other support included 25 nights of safe shelter for victims and children, 708 contacts with victims or on their behalf with law enforcement and court systems, and over 1,200 hours of support and advocacy for victims needing help.

Although anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, women are disproportionately affected. One in four women is the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner while one in seven men experiences severe physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. Most recent Department of Justice statistics note that, in 2010, the percentage of female victims (22 percent) of intimate partner violence was about four times that of male victims (5 percent). Last year, ACVAP served 269 women, 101 children, and 50 men.

Despite its prevalence, the patterns of domestic violence are not fully understood by many bystanders. Individuals want to help, but don’t know what to do. A 2006 Liz Claiborne survey reports approximately two-thirds of Americans say it is hard to determine whether someone has been a victim of domestic abuse. Moreover, more than 90 percent of Americans fail to define repeated emotional, verbal, sexual abuse and controlling behaviors as patterns of domestic violence.

In this same survey, more than half of Americans say they may have been in situations where they believed domestic violence had occurred, but they didn’t act because they were not sure what to do.

There are several ways to be involved in ending domestic violence. Concerned citizens in our community can help by calling authorities if you see or hear an argument that is escalating or seems out of control. If it is safe for you to approach, ask if everything is okay. Be honest and direct about your concerns. Attempt to de-escalate the situation by diverting attention away from the argument. If you are able, privately ask each person if they need help or if they are concerned for their safety.

For more information and tips to use to help someone you’re concerned about, call the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program 24-hour confidential hotline at 264-9075.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. A month dedicated to learning more about the prevalence of this devastating crime and what we can do as a community to end its rippling effects.

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