October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is when one person in a relationship intentionally hurts another person physically or emotionally. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. In the United States, more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year.
There are three common types of domestic violence:
- Physical abuse, such as hitting, shoving, kicking, biting, or throwing things
- Emotional abuse like yelling, controlling actions, or making threats
- Sexual abuse, which means forcing sex without consent or understanding
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health, about one in every four women and one in every thirteen men have experienced domestic violence during their lifetimes. African-American women face higher risks—nearly 30% have been subject to intimate partner violence, including physical assault, rape, or stalking.
At Whittier, we treat domestic violence as the serious and preventable public health problem that it is. Domestic violence undermines safety and trust at the most fundamental level, breaks families apart, increases the risk of contracting diseases or infections, and fragments communities. To combat these effects, Whittier offers Domestic Violence Counseling & Support Services. The Domestic Violence Coordinator at Whittier is a licensed social worker who specializes in the treatment of domestic violence. She works with victims, survivors, or those who want to avoid violence in the home. The coordinator is available to help anyone in the community, in addition to Whittier patients.
Domestic Violence Counseling & Support at Whittier aims to inform, educate, and empower victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Services include:
- Individual counseling with victims or survivors
- Advocacy work, such as connecting individuals or families to legal assistance, housing resources, or other needed services
- Court accompaniment, for restraining orders or help with child custody issues
- Training of Whittier staff on domestic violence issues
- Support groups
The Domestic Violence Coordinator also works with a specially-trained officer at the Boston Police Department to deal with immediate threats posed by assaults. All Whittier staff receive a presentation from the Domestic Violence Coordinator as part of employee orientation, and can refer patients or program participants to the coordinator.
Whittier is committed to healing the damage caused by domestic violence, and to helping eliminate domestic violence by addressing the disparities that contribute to the problem. Communities such as Whittier’s main catchment areas of Roxbury and North Dorchester see high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and exposure to community violence, which likely contributes to the intergenerational transmission of abuse. And we don’t know the full extent because of the barriers to reporting or seeking assistance—fear, shame, stigma, or societal norms.
Everyone has the right to live free of violence. With its Domestic Violence Counseling & Support Services, Whittier is raising awareness and support for our innovative violence prevention and education programs that engage individuals and families in positive solutions to build healthy relationships. Together with the community, we can help to end the cycle of violence and promote health, safety, wellness, and equality.