YWCA Week Without Violence: You Likely Know a Victim

This year marks the 20th anniversary of YWCA's Week Without Violence, a week-long campaign that mobilizes people in communities across the United States to take action against all forms of violence, wherever it may occur. As the largest provider of domestic violence services in the country, assisting over 2 million women and families each year, YWCA USA knows the devastating impact domestic violence has on women and their families.

We also know that despite the incredible work of service providers across the country to provide safe options for victims leaving abusive relationships, domestic violence remains a pervasive and, at times, fatal issue impacting American women. While domestic violence impacts men and women across the board, it is an overwhelmingly gendered crime, with women making up 86 percent of victims where a boyfriend or partner was involved. A quarter of all women are impacted by domestic violence at some point in their lives. This impact is far-reaching -- it interrupts healthy childhood development, comes at a steep economic cost to victims and communities alike, and can leave entire communities devastated. Simply put, it is an issue we cannot afford to neglect.

As the CEO of YWCA USA, I'm writing today to set the record straight on the complex and pervasive dynamics of domestic violence as we witness every day at our more than 225 local associations across the country. While you may not be aware, you likely know someone who is a victim of domestic violence. There is a common misconception that domestic violence must always entail some form of physical abuse -- this is far too simplistic of a definition. Domestic violence is in fact a pattern of controlling behavior used to maintain power in a relationship by one partner over the other. While each case is unique, abusers use a range of abusive behavior to control their partners, including: physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, financial and spiritual abuse. Isolation from friends and family, using children as bargaining tools, and threatening deportation and/or using a victim's legal status as a means to keep her in an abusive relationship are also common patterns that abusers utilize in domestic violence relationships. With a form of abuse so perverse, victims must navigate unimaginable obstacles in order to leave their abuser.

YWCAs understand these complexities intimately and are committed to providing critical emergency and supportive services to assist victims as they consider leaving their abusers. In 2014 alone, more than 570,000 women and families received assistance across all of YWCA safety programs. Helping survivors take the steps they need to get and stay safe is critical work that we are proud YWCAs offer in communities across the United States. Here at YWCA USA, we fight daily for federal-level legislative change to address systems that allow abusers to perpetrate violence.

Starting today, October 19 through October 23, we invite you to join Week Without Violence to raise awareness about the importance of ending domestic violence NOW. Follow along this week to learn more about the dynamics of abuse and systemic barriers that victims face in leaving their abusers.

Each day of Week Without Violence, we will highlight one of the following issues:
- Domestic Violence 101
- Women of Color and Barriers to Safety
- Domestic Violence Gun Homicides
- Ending Domestic Violence Around the World
- Financial Abuse and Economic Empowerment

YWCAs around the world work every day to end violence against women. We won't stop until we reach our goal to #EndDVNow.

YWCA's Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and in communities across the country to end violence in all of its form, wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence - NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit www.ywca.org/wwv and join the conversation with #endDVnow.