Domestic violence is an epidemic in Iowa
Before you finish reading this, 20 people in the United States will be abused by an intimate partner. That is how prevalent domestic violence is in our country. It’s an epidemic, and it’s happening here in Iowa.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My office is using this time to make Iowans aware of the pervasiveness of domestic violence, and resources available to help survivors. You might think this is an issue that mainly affects women, but you would be wrong. Approximately 1/3 of Iowans reported experiencing domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking from their partner. That’s 35 percent of women and 29 percent of men in our state.
Domestic violence is about power. It goes beyond physical violence and includes any behavior done for the purpose of gaining control over a spouse, partner, or family member. This issue affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status.
By raising awareness about the problem, we can support victims and survivors while holding abusers accountable. My office works with organizations across the state to promote resources that are available. One of those is our Safe at Home program.
During the 2015 session of the Iowa Legislature, lawmakers from both chambers unanimously passed the Safe at Home Act. Spearheaded by Rep. Dean Fisher, they created an address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, and stalking. The program shields participants’ physical address and provides a legal substitute address for use on public and personal documents. Safe at Home adds an important layer of protection for survivors, making it much harder for their abusers to locate them. It also helps participants lead an active life within their community.
Representative Fisher had a constituent who was a young mother that was suffering from domestic abuse. She was forced to flee Iowa, leave family behind to escape her attacker, and go to a state that had an address confidentiality program. That prompted Rep. Fisher to take the lead in the Iowa Legislature to create a program here, and I was proud to work with him on its implementation.
Since its launch in 2016, Safe at Home has grown to provide protection for more nearly 2,000 participants. It is one of the resources in the toolkit for survivors to use. There are many others. The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has an extensive list of local organizations and shelters that can help. The Iowa Victim Service Call Center is also available 24/7 by calling 1-800-770-1650 or by texting IOWAHELP to 20121.
Someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence. By raising awareness, you can help victims become survivors. On Thursday, October 20, wear purple and participate in Purple Thursday, a national day of action during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s an easy way to let survivors know you support them while promoting the cause. Join me, my staff, and Iowans across the state in this movement. Let’s be a voice for victims.