Domestic Violence Awareness Month Guest Blog by Helpline Youth Counseling

October 5, 2021

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Guest Blog by Jeff Farber, Executive Director, Helpline Youth Counseling and Angela Bolton, Director of Development, Helpline Youth Counseling

October was first declared as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989. Since then, October has been a time to acknowledge domestic violence survivors and be a voice for them. The mission of Helpline Youth Counseling, Inc. (HYC) is to help build individual, family, and community health, well-being, prosperity, and equity. HYC serves clients and community members with trauma-informed, strength-based prevention, early intervention, education, and treatment services and our continuum of agency services provided to over 5,000 people annually throughout Southeast Los Angeles County and the Long Beach area has included domestic violence prevention, education, and intervention for more than 20 years.  Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. The patterns of dominance and control are expressed through physical violence often combined with emotionally abusive behavior.  Domestic violence can result in physical injury, emotional trauma and sadly, at its ultimate expression, death.  The impact of domestic violence is devastating to families and can lead to a lifetime of trauma for the victim and their children that often transcends generations.

Nationally, according to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (CDC, 2017).  On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.  Domestic violence is a major contributor to homelessness - a survey by the Downtown Women’s Center in 2019 of homeless women in Los Angeles County found that 53% had experienced domestic or interpersonal violence in their lifetimes.  Responding after the fact is extremely costly in terms of physical and emotional damage to victims – there is also a financial impact as the lifetime economic cost of intimate partner domestic violence to the U.S. population totals $3.6 trillion according to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Since March 2020, the people and communities that HYC serves have experienced unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Risk factors associated with domestic violence including loss of jobs, financial insecurity, housing instability, isolation, and the general stress associated with raising children have all been exacerbated by the necessary public health measures taken to slow the transmission of COVID-19 such as lockdowns and school closures.  The increased use of alcohol and other substances as coping strategies, combined with many parents and children isolated at home separated from the usual network of support such as family, friends, neighbors, teachers, medical professionals, and others trained to recognize signs of abuse and assist people at risk, has placed those at greatest need in increasingly dangerous situations.  

To ensure that those in greatest need receive support during the pandemic, HYC has adopted a hybrid model of service for its domestic violence education/awareness presentations as well as its counseling services.  We serve nearly 200 survivors of domestic violence annually and have supported our clients during the COVID-19 crisis by providing emergency services for food, clothing, PPE, diapers, and utility assistance.  Our ongoing domestic violence services include intensive case management, support group services, mental health counseling services, and life skills education services including parenting education, independent living skills, and household establishment skills.  We also provide client advocacy, domestic violence education classes, on-site childcare/youth activities, outreach to educate/raise awareness in the community regarding domestic violence, and referrals to legal services including court support/restraining order services for domestic violence clients.  Through our partnerships with the two major homeless shelters in Southeast Los Angeles County, HYC ensures that some of the most marginalized victims of domestic violence receive our full range of domestic violence services on-site at the shelter locations.

HYC believes that building a community of support is crucial to ending domestic violence.  The ability to be able to provide a safe space of support is highlighted by these words from one of our program participants – "I see this building every morning on the way to work and every evening on my way home and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the women that attend the groups and the counselors that run them. To an outsider, you may not understand the amount of strength it takes to pick yourself up and attend these groups. On the days you wish the ground could just swallow you up because you crave peace. When you're trying to put yourself together while at the same time everything is falling apart. These groups are a haven.”

This month, the National Network to End Domestic Violence is encouraging everyone to raise awareness of the urgent issue of domestic violence through the #Every1KnowsSome1 social media campaign as part of a Week of Action from October 18-24.  Please join us as we work to provide education, support those affected by abuse, and provide resources for adults and children at risk of experiencing domestic violence.

For more information about Helpline Youth Counseling (HYC), please go to www.hycinc.org or call us at (562) 273-0722.

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