By House Minority Leader Craig Ford
Recently, I wrote an editorial about October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what we can do to help raise awareness and support the work to end breast cancer.
But did you know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
Domestic violence occurs when one person uses force or threats to control another person. This is typically done through physical abuse and violence, though the abuser may also use verbal abuse, emotional abuse, control of finances, lying, neglect, harassment, intimidation, threats to harm family or friends, threats to take away children, and threats against the victims life, among other methods.
While domestic abuse can include a woman abusing a man, a parent abusing a child, or the abuse of an elderly family member, the most common form of domestic violence is a man battering a woman.
Domestic violence happens more than you think: 30 percent of women receiving emergency medial treatment have injuries caused by battering!
Domestic violence can and does occur to women in every demographic – urban or rural, wealthy or living in poverty, from teenagers to the elderly, and in any religious, ethnic, or socio-economic background. It happens to married women, and to single women who are abused by their boyfriends.
Children and other family members are also affected by the abuse, and can become the abuser’s targets, as well.
So what can we do to help raise awareness and protect victims of domestic violence?
One resource is The Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The Coalition was formed to work with political and community leaders to help raise awareness about domestic violence and to help victims of domestic violence to escape abusive situations, to cope with their experiences, and to start over. The Coalition also advocates for policies and legislation to protect victims and eradicate social conditions that contribute to violence against women and children.
The Coalition has a branch in every state in the country. The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a website at www.acadv.org, and can be contacted at 334-832-4842 or by email at [email protected] If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse, you can call the Alabama Coalition’s hotline at 1-800-650-6522 for help.
In the coming legislative session, Democrats in the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate will be looking at legislation to strengthen our policies and laws to protect victims of domestic violence. A significant step we can take is to change state law and policies to prevent government agencies from selling or otherwise making public the phone numbers, addresses, and other contact information of victims who have escaped violent domestic situations so that their abusers cannot find them and renew their abuse.
Democrats will also look at strengthening our laws to punish abusers who use the Internet to abuse their victims (such as harassing on social media or through email and online chats). We will also fight to restore and fully fund government agencies that help victims, such as the Department of Children’s Affairs (which lost all funding) and the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect prevention (which lost almost 80 percent of its funding, and now has a budget of only $50,000).
Domestic violence is a terrible evil, and we have to do everything we can to prevent it, to punish those who commit these acts, and to help the victims by protecting them from the abusers and helping them get back on their feet. There are a lot of issues our state is facing right now: the economy, the rising unemployment rate, devastating cuts to education. But protecting victims of domestic violence must also be a priority.
Representative Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus. He was re-elected Minority Leader in 2012.