Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness – Speak Up and Speak Out!

Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso is the wellness sponsor for the this year’s Mighty Mujer Triathlon taking place on April 19.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Center Against Family Violence (CAFV).  This week, Stephanie Karr, executive director of the CAFV, is a guest columnist sharing insight on domestic violence and sexual assault, and guidance on how to help – when help is needed.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness – Speak Up and Speak Out!

The truth is domestic violence and sexual assault happen here – in our homes, amongst our colleagues, on our campus, to our patients.   The Center Against Family Violence challenges each of you to think about how you view violence and abuse – and to decide on which actions you are willing to take to stop it.  Too often we think we have no business in the personal lives of others.  The truth is that we all have a responsibility to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.  We know when a neighbor is being hurt, when a work colleague is being stalked, when a teen is in an unhealthy relationship, when a patient is scared.  It is incumbent on each of us not to turn away and consider it someone else’s business.  Each of us can reach out, letting others know that help is available.

How best to do that?

  1.  Ask  “Are you safe”?  Ask it quietly, away from others and without judgment.
  2. Know the Crisis HopeLine number – 1-915-593-7300  or 1-800-727-0511.  The Center Against Family Violence’s Crisis HopeLine is available 24/7, with trained professionals who know how to listen, provide assistance and help guide callers to safety.
  3. When you witness violence or the threat of violence, intervene by speaking up, calling 911 or asking if someone needs help.
  4. Be a role model for healthy relationships.  Treat others with respect and consideration.
  5. Speak up against actions or words that minimize violence.  Jokes about harming someone are not funny.

Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors are exposed repeatedly to threats, violence, intimidation, physical, emotional and psychological abuse.  Constant, repeated exposure to violence has a profound effect on a survivor’s daily activities and functioning, thinking, interpersonal relationships and sense of self.  Other reactions to domestic violence and sexual assault include fear, anxiety, anger, depression, substance abuse, self-blame and low self-esteem.  Survivors will in many cases blame themselves rather than the abuser and will engage in efforts to change their own behavior hoping this will placate the perpetrator.  The survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault may downplay the seriousness of incidents in order to cope with their everyday lives.  Survivors may be ashamed of their circumstances and end up not revealing the violence to family, friends, co-workers or law enforcement authorities.  Survivors cannot be allowed to suffer in silence.  We must reach out, assist and support them.