October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You’ve likely heard and read a lot about domestic violence awareness already this month. I’d like to use this edition of Koon’s Watch to discuss this issue and share with you how domestic violence threatens the fabric of society. First, the definition—domestic violence stems from one person’s need to control another in order to feel powerful. When the one who needs to dominate is losing power (perceived or real) in other parts of life, it’s the intimate partner who bears the brunt.

Abusers prey on their partners’ weaknesses, eventually driving the victim to doubt themselves or their ability to do anything right. Abusers use mind games, threats, promises and apologies. It is a vicious cycle. Victims are often isolated from friends and family. It is not uncommon to ask why a victim stays in the relationship. The better question is “What are the barriers that prevent a victim from leaving an abusive relationship?”

Domestic violence can happen to any one of any race, age, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. No one is immune.

You can get involved by changing how you look at and think about family violence. Ask why someone abuses, not why someone stays in an abusive relationship. Understand and model what healthy relationships look like. Reach out to your family, friends and neighbors and find out what is going on in their relationships; it’s not nosiness, it’s caring. Family violence is a societal issue that needs attention from all of us. It will take all of us working together to end domestic violence.