Preventing domestic violence is everyone's business

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A woman is physically assaulted in her home every 15 seconds in the United States. In El Paso and Teller counties, five people died during domestic violence crimes in 2008. Abused women commonly experience fear, shame, depression, anxiety, difficulties sleeping and confusion. 

But not all domestic abuse involves physical violence. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse -- sometimes even more so. It can involve yelling, ridiculing, harassing, economic control, threats, isolation and intimidation. This type of abuse usually worsens over time, often escalating to physical battery. 

Women aren't the only victims of domestic violence -- it is also very damaging to the children who witness it. Children who grow up in a home with family violence live in constant fear. They are more likely to experience emotional problems, anxiety, depression, guilt, insomnia, and poor self-esteem. Witnessing violence between one's parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. 

Although it's much less common, men can also be victims of domestic violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that men are less likely to report the abuse due to the stigma of being a male victim, the fear of not being believed, and the lack of support from society, family members, and friends. 

You may be wondering how you can become involved when someone you know is being abused. One of the most important things you can do is to be a good support system for the victim. You can be supportive by being an active listener and reminding the victim that what's happening isn't their fault. 

Refrain from judging the victim or pushing them to leave the abuser if they aren't ready to do this yet. Leaving a domestic violence relationship is a process that takes planning and time. The most dangerous time for a victim is when they are leaving the relationship. 

It's common for the victim to have an intense fear associated with leaving the abuser. You can help by encouraging and assisting the victim to develop a safety plan. This should include a detailed plan for how to escape safely from the home, how to protect the children and phone numbers for local shelters and support. You can also help by educating yourself about domestic violence and developing an understanding about the patterns and effects of abuse. 

Silence does not help the ones we love find hope or safety. Inform victims that domestic violence is a crime and that help is available. If you or someone you care about is being abused, contact the Academy's Family Advocacy office at 719-333-5270.