SUBSCRIBE NOW
OPINION

Delaware should be aware of domestic violence — this month and always | Opinion

Jennifer Naccarelli, Chrysanthi Leon and Angela Hattery
Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK

October is most often associated with Halloween, pumpkin spice lattes, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But October is also the month of purple and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic violence affects families all over the nation, and Delaware is no exception. According to statistics published in 2019 by the Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, nearly 12,000 reports of intimate partner violence were made by Delawareans. More than a third of reported incidents were witnessed by a child, and 30-60% of the time children who are silent witnesses to intimate partner violence are victims of co-abuse. Intimate partner violence takes many forms, and includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, as well as emotional, psychological and financial abuse, most of which goes unreported. Tragically, it can also result in homicide. More than 1500 women are murdered by their intimate or ex-intimate partner each year, including 3-5 in Delaware. According to the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, intimate partner homicide accounts for one-third of all homicides of women in Delaware.

Some of the early warning signs of intimate partner violence include isolating partners from their family and friends as well as stalking behaviors, including popping up unexpectedly at work or school, constant texting until the partner responds, and even following partners as they move through their daily lives. One of the most common early warning signs of intimate partner violence is inappropriate jealousy. Identifying inappropriate jealousy, at the early stages of a relationship is an important step towards preventing violence escalation, especially in young people who often misinterpret this warning sign as an expression of love or a commitment to the relationship.

RELATED:  Experts worry about domestic violence, child abuse during pandemic

And, the risk for becoming a victim of intimate partner violence homicide doesn't end when the person leaves or ends the relationship. Women and girls who leave abusive partners are at increased risk for being murdered in the next 18 months.

Purple ribbons are emblematic of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Intimate partner violence can happen to anyone, it takes place in all communities, and no one is too old or too young to become a victim. We need to start conversations with the young people in our lives about relationship violence, and continue talking throughout each stage of our lives. The Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers, among other things, a program targeted specifically for teens: “Me + You = Safe, healthy and respectful relationships." Families can prepare for and begin these conversations by utilizing resources such as healthy relationship quizzes and the Dating 101 area of the love is respect website (https://www.loveisrespect.org/about-dating).

Finally, as with most things, COVID-19 increases the risk for abusive behavior. Being isolated at home can make it difficult to reach out to family and friends and seek support. Working from home can limit one's access to freely use the phone or communicate by email or text message.

If you or someone you know is concerned about safety in a relationship, know that there are resources available. You are not alone.

Jennifer Naccarelli, Chrysanthi Leon and Angela Hattery are professors at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Gender Based Violence at the University of Delaware.

Local resources

Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence: ​https://dcadv.org/

24 Hour Domestic Violence Hotlines CHILD Inc.’s Domestic Violence Program New Castle County

302-762-6110

The SAFE Program at People’s Place II Kent & Sussex Counties

302-422-8058

Abriendo Puertas Bilingual Hotline Sussex County

302-745-9874

National resources

love is respect: ​https://www.loveisrespect.org/

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (7233).

The One Love Foundation (founded on the memory of Yeardley Love who was a lacrosse player murdered on the University of Virginia Campus by her ex-boyfriend, George Hughley): https://www.joinonelove.org/