Taking Small Steps to Combat Domestic and Sexual Violence

Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), which is a time for us to reflect on the lives lost to domestic violence, celebrate the progress that has been made to end this epidemic, and amplify humanist voices in ways that can continue to create change at the national, state and local level.

Domestic violence is pervasive in our culture, and in the United States alone, nearly twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCDAV). This amounts to more than ten million people experiencing domestic violence annually.

An even more startling statistic from the NCADV: one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Domestic violence isn’t only about the immediate physical impact on the survivor, either; it has far-reaching and ongoing physical, mental, and financial impacts for the survivor in almost all aspects of their life.

When domestic violence is present, there is sometimes sexual assault or violence present, too. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women in the United States experienced rape or attempted rape during their lifetime, while nearly one in four men in the United States experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.

We outline these statistics not to shock and startle you, but to highlight a few of the ways that domestic and sexual violence are ingrained and widespread in our culture. If you’d like to dive deeper into understanding the epidemics of domestic and sexual violence, we recommend checking out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention. This division within the CDC conducts an ongoing survey, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), from which most data is pulled to compile these national statistics.

But what can humanists do to create impact in our communities on this issue? How can we collectively take steps to change a culture of domestic and sexual violence?

The first step is to know what resources exist for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. A great place to start is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Anybody encountering or experiencing domestic violence can find support by online chat, phone or text by:

Another simple thing we can all do is raise awareness of these issues in October and throughout the rest of the year. Highlighting and elevating the messages of national organizations like the NCADV and NSVRC is one step, but you can also amplify the voices of your state and local domestic violence and rape crisis centers.

If you’re unsure of what work goes on in your state or local community to address domestic and sexual violence, we recommend checking out the resource and directory pages for the NCADV and NSVRC.

If you’d like to go a step further, you–or your local humanist group–can also donate supplies (such as clothing, household wares, phones) to domestic violence help centers and shelters. You could also volunteer your time. Many local-level organizations across the United States provide free resources and training that are culturally competent for their respective communities, and will train advocates and volunteers on everything from how to identify domestic and sexual abuse; what safe intervention looks like; how to report domestic and sexual violence; and how to accompany survivors of domestic and sexual violence for forensic examinations, in court proceedings, and more.

Together, we can all take small steps to curb and stop the epidemics of domestic and sexual violence.