October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is a time when the military community raises awareness of this issue and reminds those in a compromised situation of their local agency resources.
This year’s theme is United to End Abuse, and focuses on community efforts and letting victims know that help is always available.
White Sands Missile Range leadership with the signed Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation. They proclaim their support against Domestic Violence through various measures including assisting with prevention, and reporting. From left: Command Sgt. Maj. Robert L. Parker, Garrison Command Sergeant Major, Col. Ryan Howell, Garrison Commander, Brig. Gen. David Trybula, Commanding General, and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Prosser, Installation Command Sergeant Major.
As the COVID-19 virus pandemic dictates our social lives, it also directs how our country addresses different abuse types. With more people in seclusion, abuse can go unseen. Indicators of domestic abuse can be hidden at home or even under a face covering.
“While some crime rates have dropped, domestic violence has not. Public police records from 14 large U.S. cities revealed that domestic violence rates have significantly increased," said Cynthia Valenzuela, Family Advocacy Program Manager at White Sands Missile Range. "Contribution to this increase was identified within the first five weeks of widespread distancing, stay-at-home orders, or people staying in more to avoid COVID-19 exposure. There is this ‘perfect storm’ of stressors and triggers for many people to exhibit or be impacted by domestic violence.”
Valenzuela also shared that people who may not otherwise exhibit violent behavior may do so because of their inability to cope with increases in anxieties. This could potentially cause issues at their current job or weaken future job opportunities, and the known effects on children and abused spouses could be endless.
“Domestic violence should not be hidden or be kept the family secret. Victims need to know they are not alone, there is help, and offenders need to know their actions are not tolerated, in any community,” said Valenzuela. “No one wants to see Families 'broken,' but we do want everyone in our community to feel safe, educated, and supported. Especially in their own home.”
If you are aware of someone uncomfortable in their own home, you can make it a point to check up on them. Valenzuela explained that if you suspect someone is experiencing domestic violence, it is essential not to judge a person for being in an abusive relationship. Instead, please encourage them to seek professional help when they feel it is safe.
“All individuals need to educate themselves on triggers that could lead up to a potential domestic violence episode such as anger, aggression, stress, and past trauma that may not have been dealt with yet,” said Valenzuela. “It is also helpful to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of someone in an abusive relationship and obtain a greater knowledge of why individuals may not leave their partner and how to support someone. By educating oneself, you are becoming a part of the bigger picture and uniting to stand against domestic violence.”
This year to educate our community and create continuous awareness, White Sands Missile Range will host a few events in person and virtually.
On Oct. 2 and 6, the Family Advocacy Program and Balfour Beatty will set up a drive-through to hand out Domestic Violence toolkits.
The annual event, Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, will take place on Oct. 14.
The virtual events will take place on the WSMR ACS Facebook every Thursday this month. It will conclude with a moment of silence for all impacted by domestic violence via a Facebook live event on Oct. 30.
In addition, the Family Advocacy Program will read letters about domestic violence throughout the month on social media channels. If you (or someone you know) would like to submit a message on how domestic violence has impacted your life in any way, you can send those letters to email@example.com. For privacy purposes, you do not have to include actual names in the letter.
Who to reach out to for help with domestic violence
Family Advocacy Program within the ACS building, or call 575-678-2018
WSMR Domestic Violence 24/7 Hotline: 575-993-7413
La Casa, the Las Cruces Domestic Violence Shelter: 575-526-2819
Story and Photo: Vanessa Flores, White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs