Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), which takes place every October, is an opportunity to increase awareness about the signs of domestic violence. It is a month for empowering survivors, connecting advocates, and coming together to stop the violence that affects one person in the U.S. every 20 minutes.
DVAM was born out of the “Day of Unity,” which was organized by thestic Violence in October 1981. By October 1987, the day had turned into a full month of programming and outreach for survivors and advocates. Two years later, Congress formally recognized the month. The themes of DVAM have not changed since the first “Day of Unity.”
DVAM has three main goals: mourn those who have passed from domestic violence, celebrate the strength of survivors and connect those who work to end domestic violence. As a long-time AdvantEdge Workspaces client and renowned advocacy group, the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project (DCVLP) works every day to break the cycle of domestic violence. They provide pro bono legal assistance to domestic violence survivors and at-risk children.
In most cases, effective legal representation is imperative for a person trying to break free from a toxic relationship. DCVLP goes above and beyond their work in court. They run a weekly domestic violence resource clinic and assist clients with other needs, such as housing. DCVLP also provides crisis counseling, safety planning, case management and referrals to other resources a survivor might need.
Shown here are Event Co-Chairs Kathleen Biden and Tisha Hyter with First Lady Michelle Obama at Voices Against Violence on April 20, 2016.
Lorraine Holmes is a client advocate for DCVLP, working in the non-legal side of the organization. Her two main responsibilities are assisting clients through the legal process and representing DCVLP at the weekly clinic. The lawyers work to help survivors through obtaining protection orders or divorce and custody cases, while Holmes provides emotional support. She also connects clients with other DC resources and conducts follow-ups after a case ends.
To Holmes, DVAM is important because the average person does not think about how pervasive domestic violence is in our society. Domestic violence takes many forms: physical, emotional, financial and reproductive. This month helps educate people on the signs of all forms and reinforces that all survivors are valid and equal in their needs.
Holmes emphasizes the need to end the stigma around domestic violence. Throughout the month, organizations like hers can showcase resources and convey that there are people who are available to support survivors. A huge barrier to leaving a violent situation is not having support, so just promoting their services makes an impact.
What can you do to support DVAM? Be aware of the various signs of abuse, familiarize yourself with available resources, call out people who participate in victim blaming and donate to a cause that supports survivors. Together, we end the stigma and help people break the cycle of domestic violence.