(Via Ho’okele News)
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the theme for this year is “Relationships should be positive, safe and respectful.”
Juli Robertson, family advocacy education program coordinator, said the point of this year’s theme is to remind people that relationships should be healthy structures.
“A lot of time domestic violence is thought of as physical abuse, but emotional, verbal or financial abuse or withholding are not healthy relationship patterns,” she said.
“This month is about empowerment and awareness of what domestic violence looks like. So many people have never been in a controlling or abusive relationship before, so they don’t automatically recognize some of the signs until it’s too late,” Robertson said.
To commemorate the month, the family advocacy program (FAP) has hosted several guest speaking engagements and informational tables displayed at joint base. Robertson said this year they wanted to shift the focus of the campaign from the victims of domestic violence to the offenders and prevention. “The focus needs to be on prevention because that’s when we succeed,” she said. “The more opportunities we take to provide information and resources on prevention, the lower the cases of domestic violence we’ll have in the military.”
Robertson said the FAP offers a variety of preventive programs, including individual and couples counseling and anger management and stress management courses.
However, though domestic violence awareness is recognized during a month which is closely associated to women and women’s health issues, Kajsa Blansett, FAP education program coordinator, insists domestic violence is not just a women’s issue.
“Domestic violence is always looked at as a women’s issue, but it should also be a men’s issue,” she said. “We know domestic violence happens within both genders, so men should also be open to asking for help just as well as women.”
Blansett also encouraged victims of domestic violence to seek help rather than retaliation.
“That’s where family and couples counseling come in. The idea should be, ‘Let’s fix this before it gets out of hand,’” she said.
Though the hope would be to never have any instances of domestic violence, Blansett said knowing the signs of abuse, how to report, and what resources are available is key to putting an end to a bad situation quickly.
“Know the signs and report it,” she said. “It doesn’t always have to be bruising; it can be concerning behavior or other red flags.”
Blansett also advised withholding judgment of victims of domestic violence.
“Victim blaming is common, but there are many reasons a victim may stay,” she said. “Fear, financial dependency and children are all common reasons.”
Additionally, Blansett said many domestic violence victims are trapped in the cycle of abuse.
“Research shows that boys who saw their mother abused by their father are much more likely to become abusive in relationships as an adult. Likewise, women who witnessed domestic violence as a child are likely to accept abuse in a relationship as a normal pattern of behavior,” she said.
1st Lt. Molly Morrissey, 15th Wing deputy sexual assault response coordinator, said ultimately, violence stems from a need for power and control and ending violence of all kinds in the military will take a combined effort of wingman taking care of each other and creating an environment of dignity and respect where offenders are not able to operate.
To assist with empowering Airmen and their families with the resources that are at their disposal, the SAPR office has created a resource challenge that will give Airmen the opportunity to win incentives for their squadron while also learning about the various helping agencies and resources available.
“Our hope is that Airmen would be aware of sexual assault and domestic violence, not only in their designated months but all the time,” she said.
“Our goal is that Airmen will be more aware of resources that are available for themselves or to be able to help others in need. Sometimes people are faced with situations where they want to help someone but do not know how. The best way to help a survivor of violence is to listen, be supportive, don’t blame them for what happened, and try to connect them with additional resources for help such as the SARC, chaplain or DoD Safe Helpline,” Morrissey said.
Additional resources include family advocacy and the domestic abuse victim advocate (DAVA) program, which allows service members and their family members to make a restricted report to a domestic abuse victim advocate and receive confidential support and information regarding domestic abuse without reporting to law enforcement or the member’s chain of command. For more information on domestic violence or to reach a DAVA, call 808-474-1999.
For more information regarding sexual assaults, contact the SAPR office at 448-3192.