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Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Starts with respect, living by core values to keep relationships healthy

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SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

Editor’s Note: Except for the medical operations squadron member, names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which means educating civilians, Airmen, and their families about the programs available to treat the behaviors or symptoms that could lead to domestic violence.

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, domestic abuse is the single largest cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44 in the U.S. -- more than robberies, car accidents, and rapes combined.

Domestic violence has no prejudice; men are also at risk of being abused. Even though the Air Force has a zero-tolerance policy for violence, cases of domestic violence are still reported in today’s Air Force.

Team Seymour is using this month especially to highlight the efforts made on base and take a stand against the violence. A silent witness and traveling signs were on display throughout the base Oct. 2 through 12.

It only takes one person to speak up about domestic abuse and make a difference. Speaking up about the abuse, and potential signs leading up to it, can help others catch it sooner rather than later.

Pamela Williams, a military spouse, recalls a time in her past when she was emotionally and physically abused, and the military programs and helping agencies that helped her cope and move forward.

“I was young when I married, and from the get-go, saw the signs my new husband had temper and control issues,” Williams said. “I figured he would change over time and things would get better.”

Over the years, Williams said things got progressively worse. She explained the more time she devoted to their children, and the more independent she became, the worse the abuse was.

“For years, I felt trapped because I was uneducated and a stay-at-home mom; I honestly didn't know any better at the time,” Williams explained. “My ex-husband would constantly remind me if I were to leave, he would take our children and I would have nothing since he was the one with a career and made the money. It even got to the point if I tried to leave, he would threaten to hurt himself and that was something I did not want to live with.”

Williams said her then-husband finally agreed to go to counseling to work on things. Even though she was to the point of exhaustion and knew she could no longer live under those conditions, the couple started counseling through the Family Advocacy Center. She said it helped her tremendously, but her partner was still struggling.

“After he decided to take things too far and his supervisors intervened, I knew I didn't have to go back to how things were,” Williams said.

She added Family Advocacy was there for her every step of the way and helped her get a restraining order and set up a personalized safety plan. Williams continued therapy to help with her post-traumatic stress until she and her counselors felt she no longer needed it.

“I truly believe I would not be here today if it weren't for the services provided,” Williams said. “I am so thankful for all of their assistance in helping me to find my way and for educating me on so many levels. I am blessed to have had such amazing people work with me and help me through the hardest days of my life.”

Family Advocacy’s mission is to prevent domestic and child abuse through education programs and reaching out to families before the abuse occurs. Their goals are to help all who have been affected, including the offenders.

Another member, John Jones, used the anger management courses and attended the Family Advocacy Safety Education Seminar.

“I learned a lot from both courses,” Jones said. “I still use the skills I learned to know what my triggers are and how to deal with them. I also enrolled in the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program and had many counseling sessions with my wife.”

Jones said the Air Force allowed him the opportunity to take care of his issues while still taking care of his family.

“If you keep an open mind and basically become a sponge to all the information, it will help,” he explained. “You must be willing to do the work.”

Mutual respect is a central element of healthy relationship core values and the Family Advocacy Program. The goals continue to target assistance of a culture of sensitivity to the issues that impact the communities, shared responsibility regarding domestic abuse, and child maltreatment prevention.

“Taking a stand is a call to action meant to bring attention to the issue of domestic abuse for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and throughout the year,” said Jerome Ellis, 4th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy outreach manager. “By taking a stand, we intend to remind the nation there are still countless people, victims and survivors, their children, and families, friends and their communities who are impacted by domestic violence. We, all of us, should not stop until society has zero tolerance for domestic violence, and until all victims and survivors can be heard.”

For more information on domestic violence, call your local Family Advocacy or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. More information can also be found on the following websites: Military One Source, The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, or The National Domestic Violence Hotline.