October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month


October is the month set aside to recognize those affected by domestic violence and look for ways to combat this issue that is present not only in the armed forces but in society as a whole.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month grew out of a single day, the "Day of Unity," in October 1981 organized by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to connect groups that worked to end violence against women and children.

In 1989, Congress passed the law designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month but the first observance actually took place in October 1987.

“We want everyone to know that domestic violence is wrong,” said Dale Sundermann, Offutt Family Advocacy outreach program manager. “It sounds basic but society doesn’t take a stand against this type of behavior until the victim or perpetrator is a celebrity figure. It runs for a news cycle and gets forgotten but at Offutt Family Advocacy, we advocate every day.”

The Offutt Family Advocacy program has set up displays around base to bring awareness to the campaign.

The first display called, ‘The Clothesline Project,’ used a simple concept of allowing women to tell their story in their own unique way using words and/or artwork to decorate a shirt. Once complete, they place their shirt on the clothesline. It will be located at the Offutt Field House until Oct. 16 and then moved to the Ehrling Bergquist Clinic pharmacy for the remainder of the month.

The Clothesline Project acts as an educational tool for the general public but has been a healing tool for anyone who makes a shirt. The hope is that by hanging the shirt on the line, survivors, friends and family can literally turn their back on some of that pain of their experience and walk away. The project is also meant to allow those who are still suffering in silence to understand that they are not alone.

Another display being set up by the family advocacy program is, ‘The Silent Witness Project.’

“The family advocacy program strongly feels that awareness of and education about partner violence can reduce the number of domestic violence incidents within our Air Force community,” Sundermann said.

The Silent Witness Project is a series of plaques with the story of a person who has died as a result of domestic violence. It is modeled after the Silent Witness National Initiative whose goal it is to eliminate domestic violence murders in the U.S. by 2020.

The Offutt Silent Witness Project is located in the Ehrling Bergquist Clinic pharmacy until Oct. 16. It will then be moved to the Offutt Field House for the rest of the month.

Sundermann said displays like the ones mentioned above are important because they show the result of domestic violence to prevent it from happening again. They seek to bring about a culture of change and to inform victims and witnesses of options.

If you have a friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker who may be a victim of domestic abuse, reach out and offer support. Here are a few tips for you to follow.

  • Show your concern. Let the person you're concerned about know you're ready to listen and help. Encourage the victim to seek medical attention for any injuries.
  • Offer information on support resources. You can urge your relative or friend to contact the installation's Family Advocacy Program to speak with a victim advocate.
  • Restricted Reporting exists. . Except in certain circumstances, victims can get assistance from a Family Advocacy Program victim advocate and receive medical care without it automatically resulting in an abuse investigation or notification to the service member's command. military's options for reporting domestic abuse
  • Call 911 if the victim is in immediate danger of assault or physical injury. If on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.
  • Remind the victim of the impact of domestic abuse on children. Whether or not they physically experience violence, children living in violent households suffer emotional and psychological damage.
  • Remind the person that abusers rarely stop without help, regardless of promises. An incident of domestic abuse is often followed by a "honeymoon" period. When tensions mount, the violent behavior returns.
  • Be there for the person. A victim of domestic abuse may need you to make phone calls, go with him or her to the police or help with child care while working out a safety plan. Although you can't do it all, ask and do what you can to help.
  • Respect the victim's decisions. You may wonder why the victim stays in an abusive relationship. Many reasons may exist — none of them are simple.
  • Respect and support the victim who chooses to stay. A victim often returns to the abuser several times before leaving for good. Your continued help, support and encouragement are vital.
Additional resources are available on the Military OneSource website or call Offutt Family Advocacy at (402) 294-7886, Offutt Domestic Violence Victim Advocate at (402) 403-7436 or chaplains are always available at (402)-294-5203 or (402) 294-6070 during duty hours or (402) 294-3725 after-hours.