October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While it may not be a comfortable topic, domestic violence (or DV) is incredibly common, both in the U.S. and around the world. To help bring attention to this important issue and the people working hard to do something about it, Greatist has put together a list of organizations working to assist survivors, develop legal policies, and educate people about domestic violence and what we can do to end it.
Domestic Violence Defined — The Need-to-Know
Domestic violence can be defined as patterns of behavior in a relationship used to gain power and control over a partner (for a list of some of the aerly warning signs of abuse, check out Beauty Cares' infographic, below). Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, or some combination thereof. It can happen to anyone of any gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, profession, education, or socioeconomic background (though women are much more likely than men to be victimized), and within couples who are married, living together, or dating. The prevalence of domestic violence is sobering:
- Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
- On average, three women are killed every day as a result of domestic violence. More than 40 percent of female murder victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
- Data collected in 2005 found that women experience two million injuries from partner violence each year.
- Women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence.They also experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.
- More than 80 percent of victims of domestic violence are women. About 75 percent of the people who commit domestic violence are male.
- Women who have experienced domestic violence are much more likely to have a stroke, develop heart disease, develop asthma, and drink heavily than women who haven’t experienced DV. Sexual and domestic violence is also linked to a range of reproductive health issues, including sexually transmitted infections and HIV, miscarriages, and risky sexual health behavior.
In short, domestic violence affects the health of individuals, families, and communities. Luckily, there are a host of organizations working to eliminate violence through a wide range of perspectives and methods. We've rounded up 20 of them (in alphabetical order) below.
Organizations Supporting Survivors and Spreading Awareness of Domestic Violence
- American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence: The Commission seeks to address domestic and sexual violence from a legal perspective. Its mission is to increase access to justice for survivors of DV, sexual assault, and stalking by engaging the interest and support of members of the legal profession.
- Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence: The API Institute is a national resource center focused on gender-based violence (DV, sexual violence, and trafficking) in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. It addresses these issues by increasing awareness, strengthening community strategies for prevention and intervention, and promoting research and policy.
- Battered Women’s Justice Project: BWJP offers DV-related training, technical assistance, and consultation to members of the criminal and civil justice systems. The Project analyzes and advocates for effective policing, prosecuting, sentencing, and monitoring of perpetrators of domestic violence.
- Child Welfare League of America: CWLA is comprised of a coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving at-risk children and families. The League works to advances policies and strategies that promote safe, stable families and assist children, youth, and adults whose families don’t meet those criteria.
- Equality Now: Working with grassroots organizations and activists, Equality Now seeks to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls all over the world by documenting violence and discrimination against women and mobilizing efforts to stop these abuses.
- Futures Without Violence: FWV aims to advance the health, stability, education, and security of women, men, girls, and boys worldwide. To that end, the organization was a big player in developing the Violence Against Women Act (passed by Congress in 1994) and continues to work with policy makers and train professionals (doctors, nurses, athletic coaches, and judges) to improve responses to DV and educate people about the importance of healthy relationships.
- INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence: INCITE! describes itself as a “national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities.” Comprised of grassroots chapters across the U.S., the organization works with groups of women of color and their communities to develop political projects that address the violence women of color may experience both within their communities and individual lives.
- Institute of Domestic Violence in the African American Community: Run out of the University of Minnesota, the Institute has several clearly defined objectives: to further scholarship in the area of African American violence; to provide outreach and technical assistance to African American communities experiencing violence; to raise awareness about the impacts of violence in African American communities; to influence public policy; and to organize violence-related trainings on local and national scales.
- Jewish Women International: JWI seeks to empower women and girls through economic literacy, community trainings, and education about healthy relationships. The organization aims to end violence against women by advocating for policies focused on violence prevention and reproductive rights, developing philanthropic initiatives along similar lines, and inspiring “the next generation of leaders” by recognizing and celebrating women’s achievements.
- Manavi: Manavi, which means “primal woman” in Sanskrit, is a women’s rights organization committed to ending violence and exploitation committed against South Asian women living in the U.S. The organization provides direct service to survivors of violence, grassroots organization aimed at changing communities, and awareness programs on local and national levels.
- Mending the Sacred Hoop: Relying on grassroots efforts, MSH works to end violence against Native women and children. Their overarching mission is “restore the sovereignty and leadership of Native women”; they seek to do so through technical assistance projects and organizing Native women to advocate for the end of violence.
- National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence: A national training organization, NCDSV works to influence national policy and provides customized training and consultation to professionals working in fields that might influence domestic violence.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: NCADV works from the premise that violence against women and children results from the abuse of power on all scales, from intimate relationships to societal issues like sexism, racism, and homophobia. Therefore, NCADV advocates for major societal changes that will eliminate both personal and social violence for all people by building coalitions, supporting shelter programs, providing public education, and developing policies and legislation.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: The Hotline provides 24-hour support and crisis intervention to victims and survivors of DV through safety planning, advocacy, resources, and a supportive ear.
- National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence (ALIANZA): Allianza is a network of organizations addressing the needs of Latino/a families and communities by promoting understanding, dialogue, and solutions that aim to eliminate domestic violence in Latino communities.
- National Network to End Domestic Violence: NNEDV is an advocacy organization made up of state domestic violence coalitions and allied organizations and individuals. The organization works closely with its members to understand the needs of domestic violence victims and programs, and then voices those needs to national policymakers.
- No More: No More arose from the desire to unite the diverse array of groups working to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Hundreds of representatives from the violence and assault prevention field collaborated to develop a symbol that unites all people working to end these issues, with the end goal of ratcheting up public awareness. The blue vanishing point symbolizes "zero," representing the organization's desire to reach zero incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- The Northwest Network: Founded by lesbian survivors of domestic, the NW Network works to end abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and to support and empower all survivors through education and advocacy.
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. The Network created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) and operates the Department of Defense’s Safe Helpline. The organization also runs programs to prevent sexual violence, assist survivors, and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
- V-Day: Founded by author Eve Ensler and activists from New York City, V-Day is a global activist movement seeking to end violence against women and girls. The organization stages creative events— most famously, The Vagina Monologues and the documentary Until the Violence Stops — to increase awareness, raise funds, and support other anti-violence organizations.
How To Help — Your Action Plan
Want to help out? Start by getting in touch with any of the organizations listed above; they can point you to volunteer opportunities across the country. We’ve also put together a list of other ways to show support:
- Commit to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s 20 Challenges for Change.
- Write to your favorite companies and ask them to support domestic violence programs with their philanthropic funds.
- Be a source of support. Learn how to speak to and help friends, family members, or acquaintances who come to you with stories of violence.
- Talk about it. Educate yourself about domestic violence and pass along the knowledge to friends and family. Things change much faster when we direct our energies to changing them.