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October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The nation’s response has come a long way in recent years; what was once viewed as a private family matter with little or no police intervention is now recognized as an issue of national concern. This year’s presidential proclamation states that during this month “we stand with domestic abuse survivors, celebrate our nation’s progress in combating these despicable crimes, and resolve to carry on until domestic violence is no more.”

While women are statistically more likely to be victims of domestic violence, men can also be abused. In either instance, children in a household suffer negative consequences. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS), children who witness violence in the home are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems and learn to use violence to resolve their own disagreements. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between child abuse and domestic violence. A child may be a direct victim of the abuser, or may be indirectly injured or neglected as a result of the domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a complex issue due to the nature of the established, close relationship of the parties involved. An abusive relationship exists when a person exhibits a pattern of behavior that is used to either establish power and control, or maintain power and control over another person. It’s important to recognize these warning signs to realize when help is needed.

Help is available for victims of domestic abuse, including a free, confidential hotline that can be reached 24 hours a day at (877) 785-2020. Anyone in an abusive relationship or with plans to leave one should have a safety plan in place to protect themselves and any children involved. Massachusetts affords victims of domestic abuse certain rights to protect them and help them break free of the abusive relationship. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Batterer Intervention Program promotes the safety of domestic violence victims by holding batterers accountable for their abuse and helping them change their behavior.

No one should have to live in fear of abuse or harassment from a family member or loved one. But for many people trapped in abusive relationships, feeling safe in their own home is a luxury they don’t have. National Domestic Violence Awareness month commends the progress made in standing up against abuse and promotes continued advancement and support of victims.

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