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Across the nation, communities are launching campaigns during the month of October to create awareness of domestic abuse, ways to prevent it and resources that are available to help women, men and children affected by it.

Aberdeen Proving Ground is joining these and other military communities in commemorating the month with a series of activities and special events.

This year's Army Domestic Violence Awareness Month theme, "Soldiers, Families and Communities: The Perfect Combination for Prevention," epitomizes the coordinated community response approach that is key to an effective and proactive response to domestic abuse.

"Domestic abuse affects all of us in one way or the other," said Aida Rivera, ACS Family Advocacy Program manager. "Just in health-related costs alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than $5.8 million is spent annually. Nearly ninety percent of those costs are related to intimate partner physical violence, 6.7 percent to intimate partner rape and 3.7 percent to stalking."

But the cost to victims extends beyond the monetary.

"The shattering of the spirit of someone who is abused; you can't place a dollar sign on that," said Lynda Fernandez, Family Advocacy Program specialist. "It takes entire communities working together to help victims heal from the emotional, physical and psychological effects of domestic abuse. "Imagine it: Your partner is supposed to be your safe haven, and instead he or she is your worst nightmare. How do you reconcile that," she asked.

The Department of the Defense has taken a zero tolerance approach to domestic abuse that includes expansion of its definition. The new definition defines domestic abuse as a range of different acts by an abuser directed against a person of the opposite sex who is a current or former spouse of the abuser, a person with whom the abuser shares a child in common, or a current or former intimate partner of the abuser with whom he or she shares or has shared a domicile.

The range of acts includes the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence against the victim, such as threatening to hurt or kill him or her, or the use of actual physical force, such as hitting, punching, kicking, shoving, or sexually assaulting the victim. But domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence. It also includes emotional, psychological and economic abuse.

"Chronic abusers try to maintain power and control over their victims. They control where the victim goes, who they spend time with, they belittle and degrade them and make them believe that no one else would want them," Fernandez said. "They may limit their access to finances, often punishing them for spending more money than they were supposed to, or they cut them off altogether."

Studies conducted on domestic abuse indicate that Family violence is passed from generation to generation and continues until the cycle is broken. It takes Soldiers, Families and communities standing together to break the vicious cycle.

"When I'm out conducting Family violence briefings and Soldiers tell me they have never been exposed to domestic abuse, I tell them that they are blessed," Rivera said. "But I also tell them that we have children who will grow up to marry other people's children. We don't always know their backgrounds, but we're entrusting our children to them. They pause; think for a moment then they get it. They realize that it behooves us all to take a stand against domestic abuse."

For information on resources available to help victims of abuse and on DVAM events and activities contact the ACS Family Advocacy Program, 410-278-7478 or 410-278-2435.

<b>Signs of domestic abuse</b>

- Being afraid of one's spouse or intimate partner

- Rough treatment - grabbing, pushing, shoving, hitting, etc.

- Emotional abuse - putdowns, embarrassment or humiliation in front of others

- Social isolation - not being allowed to see or talk to Family or friends

- Property destruction - destruction of one's personal property or items of emotional value by a partner or spouse

- Threats of suicide or homicide - "If you leave me I'll..."

<b>Signs that someone you care about may be a victim of domestic abuse </b>

- Unexplained bruises or injuries

- Bruises or injuries not consistent with the explanations given for them

- Increased or unexplained absences from work

- Harassing phone calls at work Withdrawal from Family, friends and fellow service members

- Stalking

<b>Getting help</b>

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, help is available:

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Military OneSource, 1-800-464-8107

Civilian Law Enforcement, 911

APG 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline, 410-652-6048

The ACS Family Advocacy Program, 410-278-7478/2435

Harford Co. Sexual Assault and Spouse Abuse Resource Center (SARC), Inc. 24-Hour Hotline, 410-836-8430

APG Reporting Point of Contact, 410-306-2222

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16