CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – While the main focus of October is breast cancer awareness, it is also important to make women aware of other health concerns that can have major implications.

October is also National Domestic Abuse Violence Awareness Month and, according to Mass.gov, domestic violence is a national problem that knows no racial, religious, cultural, or economic boundaries. Victims of domestic violence can be any age, race, sexual orientation, gender, or marital status and can represent a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic violence affects women, men, children, and elders, however, 1.5 million women are assaulted by a partner or loved one. It not only affects those who are abused, but it may also negatively impact family, friends, co-workers, and others. 10 million children per year may witness or be the victim of violence in their homes, and children who witness violence suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The legal definition of abuse is causing or attempting to cause physical harm, placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm, and causing another person to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, the threat of force, or duress.

Abusive behaviors include:

  • Physical and sexual – pushing, hitting, slapping, strangling, kicking, biting, and forcing someone to have sex or engage in sexual acts against their will
  • Emotional abuse – name-calling, put-downs, making someone feel guilty, crazy, or badly about oneself and/or blaming them for the abuse
  • Coercion, threats, intimidation – making someone afraid using looks, actions, gestures (glares, smashing things, showing weapons, abusing pets), making and/or carrying out threats to hurt, threatening to leave, to commit suicide, to report to DCF/welfare/immigration, and or pressure to drop criminal charges
  • Isolation – controlling what someone does, where they go, or who they see or talk to, keeping them from family or friends, using jealousy to justify actions
  • Using children – criticizing parenting skills, threatening to take children away, using children to relay messages, using visitation to harass
  • Economic – preventing someone from working or having access to and knowledge about family income

According to ywworks.org, every 15 seconds a woman is beaten in America, along with more than 1 in 3 women in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Almost 50% of homeless women and their children have fled their homes because of violence.

Here are some helpful tips on what to do if you are not safe or you are not able to leave the abuser:

  1. Do not tell the abuser you are planning to leave. Formulate a safety plan and put it into action quickly.
  2. If there is an argument, move to an area in which you have access to an exit. What doors, windows, elevators, and stairwells would you use to leave safely?
  3. Keep a packed bag and emergency money in a safe and accessible location, and know where you will go if you must leave in a hurry.
  4. Make and keep copies of your and your children’s important documents (birth certificate, marriage license, medical records, insurance documents, Social Security Card, passport, green card, check/bank books, medications, etc.) in a safe place for you to take with you when you leave.
  5. Use a code word with your children, family, friends, or neighbors so they know when to call for help.
  6. Change locks on your doors. Install other safety devices/locks on doors and windows.
  7. Keep a list of important contact names and telephone numbers including the local domestic violence agency, as you do not need to leave your abuser to use their services.
  8. Call 911. Obtain an Abuse Prevention Order- a court order to protect one person from being abused by another person.

There are also several locations and national programs and services available to people that are involved in domestic abuse: