By Nicole Owens, Denton County Friends of the Family
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month is all about education and spreading awareness of the impact of domestic violence in our community.
Our Prevention, Community Education, and Awareness Program counters domestic violence and sexual assault through educational and professional programs starting in pre-K. By teaching things like respect for boundaries, effective communication, how to recognize unhealthy behaviors, and recognizing and understanding what to do when someone does something unsafe or unhealthy, we work to prevent future violence.
Despite our best efforts, we know that abuse is still happening in our community, and there is still a lot of work to be done. We host awareness events throughout the year, but our main focuses are Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April). Not only do we raise awareness of just how common these issues are, but we educate the community on what to do, if they or someone they know is confronted with domestic violence and sexual assault. By educating the community, we’re encouraging individuals to not turn away from the signs of abuse they may see in a friend or family member and instead encourage that person to get help and reach out. We also address common myths about domestic violence and sexual assault making it safer for those who have been affected to come forward and seek help.
Without an understanding of the dynamics of abuse, it’s often difficult for well-meaning professionals such as law enforcement and CPS to take the right course of action to help someone. For example, they may mistakenly assume that the victim is actually the perpetrator of abuse due to manipulations by the abuser. Perpetrators of intimate partner violence and sexual assault often have multiple victims in their lifetime. If someone recognizes the abuse and stops them, the perpetrators can be sent to a BIPP program where they’ll learn healthy coping mechanisms. We rely on professionals such as law enforcement to recognize the signs of abuse and refer the victim and perpetrator to the appropriate services, but doing so requires an understanding of the dynamics of abuse.
While activists in the field of sexual assault and intimate partner violence have been advocating and educating for centuries, prevention education like our program is relatively new. Take Back the Night, a yearly march to raise awareness of sexual assault, began in the sixties and still continues today. In 1981, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Week was celebrated. In the nineties, a push for prevention education in schools began, but in many places such education remains optional. Last year, we presented over 900 presentations to over 25,000 people, and have even bigger plans for the future. Our team is expanding and with legislation like Texas HB 1342, which would make sexual assault prevention education mandatory starting in kindergarten, and the growing awareness of the importance of prevention education we hope to continue to present in more schools and bring awareness to the entire community.
Learn more about us here.