Experiencing violence by family members is a traumatic event that oftentimes feels very personal. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that the broader community can help prevent instances of violence or help treat the effects of family violence once it has occurred. However, there are several reasons for engaging the community, including service organizations, policy makers, the media, and the general public, in addressing family violence.
Most Virginians know someone who has been impacted by family violence of some kind. This could be violence towards a child, an older or incapacitated adult, a teenager, or someone involved in an intimate relationship. It impacts people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, but we oftentimes are unaware of the maltreatment that takes place around us. Even when we are aware, we might not know how to help. Community awareness of family violence empowers individuals to recognize abuse and take steps to protect family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors from future or further abuse.
Some of the most effective strategies for addressing family violence are due to the coordination and collaboration of multiple organizations in the community. By working together to share information, maximize resources, and align policies, community organizations can:
- Increase the public’s understanding of family violence including how to define it and how to prevent it
- Provide victims with a sense of safety through the provision of high-quality services
- Help victims receive comprehensive and caring attention in one setting, diminishing the need for re-explaining their abuse in multiple interviews and agency visits
- Demonstrate a firm and united response to offenders that family violence will not be ignored or tolerated in the community
Research indicates that higher rates of unemployment, poverty, and substance abuse are correlated with increased violence in communities. While these factors do not directly cause violence, creating a healthier environment and a more vibrant economy may make it more likely that individuals, children, and families will live in safer and more stable homes.
As communities become aware of the violence occurring within families and engage in prevention and treatment efforts, communities provide greater protection for fellow residents. By improving community health and well-being, increasing the level of available and effective services for victims of family violence, and improving the public’s understanding of their role in preventing abuse, individuals and organizations can make a critical difference in the safety and quality of life for Virginians.