According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “ … nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.” If you’re a victim of domestic abuse, please call 800-799-7233 for help.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and three Azusa Pacific University students are raising awareness through the Club Social Work organization on campus. They want to cultivate spaces where survivors’ voices can be valued and heard.
The color purple is associated with royalty and strength; therefore, it is seen as an empowering color. In the early 20th century, women wore the color purple as they marched for their right to vote. In addition, according to All Against Abuse, the color purple was chosen for the first Domestic Violence Day of Unity in 1981. Last Wednesday, APU students participated in wearing purple so they could raise awareness for domestic violence.
Samuel Reyes is a social worker major and a senior at APU. He has been educating his family and friends about the signs of domestic violence and how abuse takes on many different forms.
Reyes believes it’s important to raise awareness for domestic violence because of how prevalent it’s been in his family. Now, he is starting the conversation about how if we are not aware of what domestic violence is, we can become perpetrators or victims of the abuse.
Growing up, Reyes saw different forms of abuse take place within his own family. He recalls a time when his uncles were the main breadwinners and would withhold that money from their wives/girlfriends.
He remembers seeing his aunts struggling to buy food for themselves and their children. “Women who had infants weren’t given money to buy formula or diapers for their children,” said Reyes. He didn’t realize it then, but he started to carry traits that were similar to the domestic violence that he witnessed in his home.
Since he grew-up in an environment where domestic violence was acceptable, Reyes said he had to educate himself to recognize those characteristics in himself. Now, he is trying to rewrite the narrative not only for himself but also for his son.
While Reyes has been spreading awareness about domestic violence, he also wants to open up the conversation to men who have been victims of abuse. Men are less likely to report incidents of abuse because they don’t want to be perceived as weak. However, Reyes believes as mental health starts to become more popularized, more men will come forward about how they have been a victim of domestic violence as well.
For anyone that has been a victim of domestic violence, know that there are resources made available for you. “If you’re a victim, I think it’s important to understand that it’s not your fault. There are places you can go to find resources, and there are people who care about you,” he said.
Velen Ramirez, a social work major and a senior at APU, also discussed the importance of raising awareness for domestic violence because many are experiencing abuse in their relationships. “It’s something that a lot of people go through, especially in this college age where people are finding relationships,” she said.
Ramirez also said there aren’t many laws or policies regarding domestic violence. However, she hopes having more conversations about the topic will implement a social change. She has also seen how her job as a social worker has coincided with domestic violence. “As social workers, we are to affect change in society,” she said.
While being a social work major at APU, Ramirez has learned much about what her job entails. She has learned to be more sympathetic towards people that are experiencing domestic abuse and knows to look for signs of isolation.
Ramirez would like to reassure victims who are afraid to come forward that it’s okay to be scared because the situation itself is scary. However, having a good support system will help you get through it.
Mayah Islas, a junior social work major at APU, wants to create a space where people can talk about domestic violence without the subject seeming taboo. She wants victims to know that she is supporting them, even if they decided not to tell her anything, and she wants to continue to spread awareness so that we can move towards the creation of better laws regarding domestic violence.
Islas has mentioned how the system has failed women before, mentioning that men often don’t get held accountable for their actions. Sometimes the biggest consequence they face is community service. “Men get a slap on the wrist for a lot of these things,” she said.
According to Islas, women will report their domestic abuse multiple times, yet nothing is done about it. Domestic violence isn’t seen as a huge problem because it doesn’t lead to casualties most of the time. However, Islas said, “I don’t think we need another tragedy to be the reason why we discuss this.”
Social workers help raise awareness for victims of domestic abuse by making them aware of their resources, such as shelters, therapy and lawyers. As Islas continues to raise awareness, she hopes to empower survivors to open up about their abusive experiences.
When people come to her for advice and identify that there is a problem, Islas reminds them that they’re here for a reason. She reminds them that counseling is available for the victim and their partner as well. Most importantly, you have to be willing to take the first step, which is to ask for help.
As the month of October continues to move forward, there is a significant reason as to why people are wearing purple. The color purple signifies courage, strength and bravery — all the traits survivors of domestic abuse possess.
If you like to learn more, check out the resources below:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
California Department of Public Health