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Observance Draws Awareness to Domestic Violence


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications​

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Director Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja joined other leaders on Naval Support Activity Bethesda Oct. 2 to sign a proclamation focusing on raising awareness of domestic violence.

Annually, the nation pauses during October to observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is intended to inform the community about the damage caused to individuals, children, long-term health care, work productivity and community safety from domestic violence,” stated Lawanda Dezurn in reading the proclamation at the observance.

Dezurn, a social worker and Family Advocacy Program victim advocate at NSAB, explained that in addition to the primary victims of domestic violence, emphasis and care must also be directed towards secondary victims, such as children. She explained those who witness or are aware of domestic violence can be negatively impacted by it, causing long-term health issues if left unaddressed.

“This awareness campaign engages the [military] community in preventing domestic violence by supporting [our] colleagues, neighbors and friends in utilizing resources, [and] creating partnerships among leadership, social service agencies, schools, faith-based communities, civic organizations and law enforcement agencies to address domestic violence,” Dezurn continued.

She furthered that “dedicated Fleet and Family Support Center staff [at NSAB] encourages [service members], their families [and others] to nurture healthy relationships while providing programs and services to prevent domestic violence.”

Talia Bryan, another social worker and clinical case manager at the FFSC on base, explained that Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the "Day of Unity" held in October 1981 and conceived by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became an entire week devoted to a range of activities conducted at the local, state, and national level,” she stated. Activities focused on “mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived, and connecting those who work to end violence.” These themes have remained the focus of Domestic Violence Awareness events since it became a month-long observance in 1989, Bryan said.

She added that “on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phones calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.” Of those reporting domestic violence incidences, 57 percent of alleged offenders are military members and 43 percent are civilians, according to Bryan.

To battle domestic violence, Bryan said communities must stand together. “No one should live in fear in their homes. We can speak up to defend those who are being abused,” she stated.

It’s important to know the signs of domestic violence, Dezurn, Bryan and other domestic violence victim advocates state. These signs can include the physical, as well as jealousy by the abuser toward the victim, in addition to the abuser not permitting the victim to spend time away from him or her. Also, the abuser may publicly embarrass or shame the victim in various ways, as well as try to control the victim through finances and other means.

Advocates encourage people who may know of someone experiencing domestic abuse to “lend an ear” and “be available” to victims of domestic violence. People should also know the number to a nearby shelter and check in regularly with a loved one or friend in a difficult situation that may be domestic violence. “Be a resource,” advocates say.

Those facing domestic violence and their loved ones and friends should document incidents, which can be useful in later possible police reports and court cases, both criminal and civil, advocates add.

Bryan encouraged people to seek out the FFSC on NSAB if they or someone they know are facing domestic violence.

Navy Capt. Mary Seymour, NSAB commanding officer, said the signing of the proclamation for Domestic Violence Awareness Month on base is more than just a promise. “We are reaffirming our commitment to take the necessary steps to help those affected by domestic violence and to work toward addressing it by knowing the signs of healthy relationships. It’s about awareness and action.”

Seymour stressed this year’s theme for the observance, “Know the Signs of Healthy Relationships and How to Strengthen Yours,” encourages everyone to know what constitutes positive and negative behaviors and learn ways to improve how to live with others.

“Educate yourselves in the signs of domestic violence – from isolation, physical injuries, public humiliation, threats to harm, fear, low self-confidence, extreme control of finance and documentation, stalking, cyberbullying [and other behaviors],” Seymour said. “Commit yourself to become more educated and adapt about domestic violence so you can be part of social change,” she added.

In addition to Kobelja and Seymour, other leaders of commands on NSAB who signed the proclamation included: Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, director of the National Capital Region Medical Directorate; Dr. Richard Thomas, president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Navy Cmdr. Thad Sharp, officer-in-charge of the Naval Dosimetry Center; Marine Lt. Col. Ryan Shaffer, officer-in-charge of Walter Reed Detachment Wounded Warrior Battalion-East; Army Col. Brian Harthorn, commander of the Warrior Transition Brigade-National Capital Region; Army Col. Tonya Dickerson, commander of the U.S. Army Element-North; Navy Capt. (Dr.) Barry Adams, commanding officer of the Navy Medicine Professional Development Center; and Navy Capt. Sheherazad Hartzell, Navy Medicine Inspector General, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The FFSC is located in Building 11 on NSAB. The main number is 301-319-4087. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Victims can also connect online with the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org.​