Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Why Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

Domestic Violence Awareness Month began back in October of 1987 with intentions to raise awareness to domestic violence issues and empower survivors. While many refer to those who have endured domestic violence as “victims,” there is an aim to reframe individuals’ experiences using the more empowering term, “survivors.” This change of discourse is encouraging in that it validates individuals’ experiences by acknowledging their strength and gives them power over their circumstances.

What is Domestic Violence?

As defined by the United Nations, domestic violence, also called “intimate partner violence,” is “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner” (United Nations, 2020). Abuse can be economic, sexual, physical, emotional, or psychological through use of intimidation or threats. Domestic violence spans across gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation as well as a range of relationships including those who are dating, cohabiting, or are married. Domestic violence is not limited to a particular socioeconomic background or education level. In sum, domestic violence is prevalent across all walks of life, affecting various identities and backgrounds.

Often, survivors are financially dependent on their abusers, making it difficult to leave their situations. Further, research has indicated that domestic violence is more likely to occur when a survivor tries to leave the abuser.


  • Domestic violence or intimate partner violence affects more than 12 million people every year however women are disproportionately impacted by this type of violence (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2020).
  • Nationally, domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime (NCADV, 2021).
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly subject to domestic violence by an intimate partner (NCADV, 2021).
  • An average of 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, equating to more than 10 million individuals (NCADV, 2021).

Psychological Impact of Domestic Violence.

The psychological impact that domestic violence has on survivors is stark and demands attention. Survivors of domestic violence are more likely to exhibit depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Further, domestic victimization is correlated with increased rates of depression and suicidal behavior as indicated by research (Cavanaugh et al., 2011). Survivors may also carry with them self-blame and shame as a result of enduring the abuse.

In terms of treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be effective in treating depression and PTSD symptoms in women who have endured domestic violence as well as in negating self-blame for the abuse (Santos et al., 2017). Mental health services from licensed psychotherapists and psychiatrists provide a safe space for survivors to receive treatment and care for their psychological needs. Psychotherapists may provide individual or group psychotherapy where survivors can be connected with others who have endured the same hardships, can develop healthy coping skills, and can receive psychoeducation regarding their experiences and symptoms. For many who experience depression and PTSD symptoms, psychiatric services are highly encouraged in conjunction with psychotherapeutic help to alleviate symptoms.

Online Resources


Cavanaugh, C. E., Messing, J. T., Del-Colle, M., O’Sullivan, C., & Campbell, J. C. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of suicidal behavior among adult female victims of intimate partner violence. Suicide & life-threatening behavior. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Preventing intimate partner violence. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2020). Domestic violence. Retrieved from

National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020, December 15). The Hotline. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

Santos, A., Matos, M., & Machado, A. (2017). Effectiveness of a Group Intervention Program for Female Victims of Intimate Partner Violence. Small Group Research, 48(1), 34–61.

United Nations. (2021). What is domestic abuse? United Nations. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from