October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It serves as a reminder of this pervasive issue that affects countless individuals and families worldwide. Learn more about the background behind this month, the impact of domestic violence, and the resources available. 

The origin of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month 

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed in October 1989 as an effort to raise awareness about intimate partner violence and to promote advocacy, support, and education on this critical issue. Since its inception, organizations, individuals, and communities across the United States have joined forces to support survivors and raise awareness about domestic violence. During October, numerous events, campaigns, and educational programs are organized to shed light on the issue and provide information and resources to help individuals and communities confront domestic or intimate partner violence.

The impact of domestic violence 

Domestic violence exists in every community and has an impact on individuals across the life span—and cuts across all boundaries, with no exceptions for age, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, or religion. Domestic violence includes both physical and emotional abuse. The devastating consequences of intimate partner violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. 

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people in the U.S. are physically abused by intimate partners each minute—with more than 10 million abuse victims annually. One in every 3 women and 1 in every 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. 

Domestic violence isn’t just something that happens between intimate partners—more than 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, with 90% of these children witnessing these acts of violence. Domestic violence can have long-lasting negative effects on children's emotional well-being and social and academic functioning. 

Furthermore, new research investigates violence in teen relationships. Up to 19% of teens report that they have experienced sexual or physical dating violence, with half reporting experiences of stalking or harassment. Violence in teen relationships is associated with long-term adverse outcomes, including becoming involved in intimate partner violence in adulthood, drug and alcohol use, and an increase in other high-risk behaviors.

Increase in domestic violence since 2020 

According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, the lockdowns that occurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a global increase in domestic violence cases of 25–30% globally. The World Health Organization believes that number may have been as high as an increase of 50–60% due to hotline call volume. This underscores how widespread the issue of domestic violence is, and the importance of awareness, support, and resources to help survivors. 

Resources for individuals experiencing domestic violence 

There are a number of places to turn for support and education on domestic violence. Some of these resources include: 

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) is a 24/7 hotline that offers immediate support and access to resources for those in crisis. 
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers an online template for a personal safety plan. This template can be used by anyone who may anticipate violence, providing a way to prepare and plan to get to safety. 
  • The National Online Resource Center for Violence Against Women provides a rich collection of full-text, searchable electronic materials and resources on domestic violence, sexual violence, and related issues.