As a child, David* was physically abused by a parent. The pattern of abuse continued when he became an adult.
“Like so many victims, I found myself marrying a person who was also abusive,” said the Kaiser Permanente employee. “It took years of therapy for me to even see that it was violence, let alone report it as such. Men just aren’t allowed to say ‘I’m abused’ and still feel they are men.”
David’s story reflects a commonly held misconception about domestic violence — that only women can be victims.
“Domestic violence doesn’t happen to just one group of people,” said Brigid McCaw, MD, medical director of Kaiser Permanente’s Family Violence Prevention Program. “It affects women and men of all ages, ethnicities, education and income levels, and it can happen to people in the LGBT community as well as those in heterosexual relationships. It can happen to anyone.”
Physical violence isn’t the only form of domestic abuse, she adds. “It can include coercion, put downs, threats, social isolation and financial abuse.”
Ending the silence
Kaiser Permanente will join forces with organizations across the country to raise public awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault during the NO MORE Week of Action, March 6 to 12. Launched in 2013, the NO MORE campaign strives to break down the barriers of stigma and shame that keep people from talking about abuse and breaking out of abusive relationships.
Abuse by the numbers
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners during their lifetimes.
- 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year.
- 1 in 5 women are survivors of rape.
- 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
Source: NO MORE.
“As a health care organization, we believe that everyone deserves a healthy relationship,” said Dr. McCaw. “Our support of No More reinforces the work that we do at our medical centers every day and gives us the opportunity to engage in a national conversation about stopping domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Throughout the NO MORE Week of Action, daily themes will drive actions and social media efforts. On Tuesday, March 8, communities are encouraged to examine the unique barriers faced by domestic violence survivors in marginalized groups — including immigrants and members of the LGBT community — and to explore strategies for increasing awareness of domestic violence among these groups.
Breaking down barriers
One such initiative is silentWitness, a traveling display created by Kaiser Permanente to share the stories of physicians, medical staff, and employees like David who are survivors of domestic violence. The survivors come from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and their stories are presented in Chinese, Spanish and English.
“By displaying silentWitness at medical centers and community events across the country, we hope to inspire members and employees who are experiencing domestic abuse to reach out for help,” said Dr. McCaw.
Kaiser Permanente has also sought to reach out to Latino members who may be experiencing domestic violence with the creation of a bilingual health fotonovela that illustrates the signs of domestic violence and how to get help. Fotonovelas are a familiar form of entertainment in Latino communities and can deliver health messages in a culturally relevant and easy-to-read format.
Spread the word
On Thursday, March 10, individuals and organizations are asked to help spread the word about the NO MORE campaign by uploading a picture of themselves with a NO MORE sign or adding the organization’s symbol to their social media profiles. Visit the NO MORE Week of Action Guide and scroll to March 10 to find the sign and symbol.
“I am proud that Kaiser Permanente is embracing this campaign,” said Dr. McCaw. “The work that we’re doing isn’t just about the individuals who are directly experiencing domestic violence — it affects the children who live with them, too. By helping to stop domestic violence, we can help both current and future generations live happier, healthier lives.”
*not his real name