October 18, 2010

Countering Abuse With Support

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

We all need love and support. We are the same that way. Unfortunately, for far too many, love and support have been replaced with mistreatment and abuse. However, we can work together to counter this abuse and prevent domestic violence from harming more lives by taking action to increase community support and awareness, providing resources for victims, educating children early about domestic violence and promoting a culture that does not overlook signs of abuse.

Awareness is critical to combating domestic violence. I am a longtime supporter of legislation designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which Congress recognizes every year to facilitate discussion and promote awareness of domestic violence and its devastating effects on families and communities. Throughout the month, conferences, workshops, training events, vigils, fun runs, walk-a-thons, fundraisers, rallies, media activities, award ceremonies and other events are held across the nation to increase the responsiveness to domestic violence. Recently, I was the honored recipient of the Visionary Leadership Award, the National Network to End Domestic Violence's (NNEDV) highest award for leadership in anti-domestic violence efforts, at their annual "Take A Stand" event in Washington, D.C. The NNEDV, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and other domestic violence advocacy groups are important partners in responding to the ongoing needs of domestic violence victims and advocacy programs.

While Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides a focused national platform to address the issue, sustained action against domestic violence and similar forms of abuse through providing resources to assist victims also must continue. Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has helped victims and families in our communities by making substantial progress toward ending domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. In its first six years alone, VAWA has saved taxpayers at least $14.8 billion in net-averted social costs.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act is another initiative that works to end the cycle of domestic violence by ensuring that victims of dating violence have access to services they need to escape dangerous relationships. Additionally, the Victims of Crime Act provides resources and services to victims through its Crime Victims' Fund. Despite the remarkable work against domestic violence provided through these laws, many victims still do not receive needed services, because many programs lack sufficient resources to help victims who are desperately in need. That is why I have introduced and supported legislation that dedicates necessary resources to improve these efforts.

Preventing domestic violence is critical and must start early by educating children and young adults about this issue and promoting positive and safe dating relationships. Together, we can work to develop policies and efforts that support prevention by encouraging healthy relationships, responding to dating abuse and reaching out through creative and effective social marketing campaigns. This year, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, I introduced a Senate resolution that designated February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. The Senate passed this resolution unanimously, which provided communities across the country an opportunity to educate the public about the growing problem of teen dating violence.

Increased awareness, education, dedication of necessary resources and training will help ensure that the signs of abuse will not be overlooked. Continued efforts to increase victims' access to help lines and other networks and aiding family members and friends with identifying and reporting abuse are instrumental in averting future abuse and helping victims escape their attackers. This will help eliminate the far too common and horrific incidents of abuse and neglect in our communities. Collectively, we can overcome the domestic violence that tears so many families and communities apart.

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