OP Ed: Resource awareness can go a long way toward reducing domestic violence in San Diego


In San Diego County, 8,554 domestic violence incidents were reported in the first half of 2022. These are only the cases that are reported.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to turn our attention towards an issue that is prevalent worldwide, yet often goes unseen. It is not physical violence alone, but a pattern of controlling behaviors that take place in different forms including, psychological, sexual and financial abuse.

As both a public health crisis and a human rights issue, it takes place at tragically frequent rates. Every day in the United States, more than 20,000 phone calls are made to domestic violence hotlines. One in four women and one in nine men experience this abuse in our country. The issue is just as prevalent in our own community. In San Diego County, 8,554 domestic violence incidents were reported in the first half of 2022. These are only the cases that are reported; many who are experiencing abuse are afraid to disclose it.

Domestic violence affects everyone, regardless of background, but the impacts often look the same. Twenty percent of survivors develop mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse disorders. The traumatic experience may also lead to survivors blaming themselves, potentially becoming self-destructive and suicidal.

The impact goes beyond the surface. Children who witness domestic violence are at risk for mental health, social and physical problems. It can also affect their future relationships, increasing their risk of becoming victims and abusers themselves. This is the risky cycle of abuse that leads to our country’s alarming statistics.

For many victims, the fear of leaving can be greater than the fear of staying. Abusers can hold power through finances, guilt manipulation and threatening to harm loved ones. When survivors do make the difficult and brave decision to leave, it can easily lead to risky living conditions. There are many different ways to tackle these hardships, but they all involve reaching out for help.

At Home Start — a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect — we provide these resources daily to prevent risk and protect families. We aim to have all survivors and families in safe, stable homes, and there is measurable impact to our work.

Each year, Home Start’s specialized programs impact the lives of hundreds of domestic violence survivors.

It’s more than just a roof over their heads. The best form of security is self-sufficiency, and offering a full support system is critical. With access to resources such as counseling, financial literacy training, higher education and employment assistance, survivors find a pathway to building a secure and safe life. Case management and wraparound support services ensure that families can escape the cycles of homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.

One example is a story from a brave survivor from San Diego who needed help when her family had nowhere left to look.

When she and her two children were kicked out of their place of residence, they had nowhere else to go. She was in a bad situation with her family, and had no one to reach out to for help. With a 14-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter, she knew she needed to get help right away.

A local police officer referred her to Home Start. The same day she called, she and her family were immediately placed in a hotel before moving into a temporary housing building. They were given their own room with new bedding, hygiene supplies and other utilities, all rent free.

This time was essential as she was able to search for a job and save up enough money for her own place. Most importantly, she was able to keep her children safe.

She and her family moved out of the program in April of this year, and even now, she still receives financial support so she can afford daycare. These programs are life-changing for anyone who is struggling to get support and resources.

Stories like hers tell the immeasurable impact that these resources provide. It is our duty to protect our most vulnerable populations and keep families safe and secure. We often underestimate the power of awareness, but knowledge of this sensitive topic leads to action and change. By knowing the signs and effects of domestic violence, and knowing the many resources available, we can shift the course together.

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