October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Fairfax County and across the country. That declaration may generate a number of responses — ho hum, another “something month;” “well, that doesn’t happen here;” “that doesn’t happen in my circles;” or “bad things happen, I have other things to worry about.” Let me suggest a better response — it does happen here, it does happen within your socio-economic group, it affects society as a whole, and you should care.
I serve as the Board of Supervisors’ liaison to the Domestic Violence Policy and Prevention Coordinating Council, a group of 40-some leaders from all walks of life coordinating ideas at a high level regarding this problem. We know over half of all homicides in Fairfax County are domestic-violence related. Domestic violence presents a greater threat to women, on average, than all other types of violent crime combined. Children in homes where domestic violence occurs suffer permanent neurological and psychological reactions. Children subjected to domestic violence are twice as likely to become abusers themselves. And we know that domestic violence rips apart the very foundation of American society — the family.
I have often said that communities are about people. Strong communities are built on strong connections between people. Strong families offer the best foundation for children to succeed in school, adults to succeed at work, and all people to be able to contribute positively to the community around them. The reverse is also true. If home is not a source of strength for someone, but is a place of danger, then that danger and violence weakens the whole community.
So what can we do? First, if you are the victim of domestic violence, or know someone who may be, please call the Fairfax County Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline at 703-360-7273. We are ready to help. Second, recognize that domestic violence victims often feel stigmatized and afraid, and try to hide their experiences. If you think someone is being abused, don’t turn your head. Offer a helping hand. Third, help get the word out. Domestic violence is not acceptable. Ever. We need a stronger cultural message against domestic violence so abusers know their conduct is not just illegal, but socially unacceptable.
I hope you will join me on Oct. 17 for a Domestic Violence Awareness event that will raise funds for two organizations--Fairfax CASA and Shelter House--that assist victims of domestic violence. We will meet at Kilroy’s (5240 Port Royal Road, Springfield), just off the Braddock Road exit from the Beltway, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Music, raffles, good company and a good cause. You can RSVP and learn more about the event at www.fightviolence.eventbrite.com.
John C. Cook, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (R-Braddock District)