October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I encourage everyone to stop the silence and stop the violence. We must fight to end domestic abuse and the best way to do that is to bring it to into the light, whether we want to see it or not.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior, but it is not just physical abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that domestic violence can be physical, emotional, sexual, economic or psychological actions that frighten, intimidate, manipulate, hurt, humiliate or injure someone.

According to statistics released by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women in the United States will be a victim of domestic violence. Women represent the majority of domestic violence victims, but men can be victims as well.

There are many common myths associated with domestic violence that are discussed on domesticviolence.org. As shocking as it sounds, there is a belief that some people deserve to be hit, but this is not the case. No one deserves to be abused. Another misconception is that alcohol, stress, drug use, or mental illness can cause domestic violence. Those factors may accompany domestic violence, but they are not the cause and cannot be used as an excuse.

Domestic violence may seem to be a private matter, but this is not the case. We cannot sit back and pretend that we are not aware of the abuse that surrounds us. Because victims of abuse are often too scared to speak up for themselves, it is vitally important for a person who witnesses, or suspects, domestic violence to report this to authorities. A person who reports domestic violence that they see or suspect may save a victim’s life.

A study compiled by the United States Department of Justice claims that females between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most vulnerable to domestic violence. In a nationwide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of students in grades 9-12, nearly one in 10 students reported being hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

In light of the increasing risk of dating violence among teenagers, I have sponsored legislation that would direct the Department of Education to develop a school district dating violence policy and requires school districts to provide dating violence education in the health curriculum. The bill, A-2920, requires the Board of Education to develop a policy to prevent and address dating violence at school and to develop dating violence training materials to be posted on its website

If you, or someone you care about, is being abused please know that there are resources available to help. Turning Lives Around 180, located in Hazlet, serves men, women, and children who are victims or domestic and sexual abuse. They offer a toll free 24 hour hotline for domestic violence at 1-888-843-9262. If you would like more information about the services provided by Turning Lives Around 180 please call 732-264-4111.