In many parts of the country, October signals the changing of the season.
Daylight Savings Time adjusts our inner clocks. The crispness in the air turns our attention to the end of the year and the impeding holiday season.
For women October holds gender specific significance. It’s the time of year that messages about breast cancer and domestic violence prevention seem more pervasive and pointed. That’s because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it’s also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Breast cancer wasn’t really talked about much until Betty Ford, wife President Gerald Ford, had a public battle with breast cancer in 1974. This raised awareness about the importance of early detection. In 1985 National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was observed, spearheaded by a group professional medical associations, public service and governmental agencies.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. It is estimated that 1 out of 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Although white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer because it is often found at a later and more advanced stage.
Since its inception, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has driven home the message that with regular screenings, breast cancer can often be found early and early detection improves the changes of successful treatment and survival. When it comes to prevention their message has been clear: check your breast regularly, limit alcohol consumption and increase physical activity.\
The biggest bump to women’s health care has been the passage of the Affordable Care Act . Now 20.4 million women with private insurance are now covered for preventative services such as mammograms and pap smears with no additional costs. See President Obama’s 2012 National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Proclamation.
The domestic violence moment started in 1980 as the “little movement that could” galvanize battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. In 1994 the historic Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed, which was coincidentally drafted by then Senator Joe Biden. It funded vital programs which trained police officers and prosecutors how to support the needs of victims, established specialized law enforcement units to investigate domestic violence crimes, and provided transitional housing programs help victims rebuild their lives.
Unfortunately domestic violence remains this country’s most shameful secret and the number one public safety issue impacting women. We’ve all heard the statistic that every 9 seconds in the United State a woman is assaulted or beaten. But there are other sobering facts, as reported by the National Bar Association and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
- Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
- Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
- Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
- Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
- The costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
- Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
President Obama issued a 2012 National Domestic Violence Month Proclamation. In it he said, “For far too long, domestic violence was ignored or treated as a private matter where victims were left to suffer in silence without hope of intervention.”
The President ends that proclamation by stating, “While government must do its part, all Americans can play a role in ending domestic violence. Each of us can promote healthy relationships, speak out when we see injustice in our communities, stand with survivors we know, and change attitudes that perpetuate the cycle of abuse.”
Awareness is the key that locks breast cancer and domestic violence together inextricably. And just about everyone either knows someone or has had their lives changed by a breast cancer diagnosis or a domestic violence incident. One could argue the issues are polar opposites. Breast cancer is a public health care issue; domestic violence is a public safety issue. But the bottom line is they claim victims and in too many cases they both take their victim’s lives. Framed in that context makes commemorating these issues in the same month befitting.
October is not only a time to shift our moods as we prepare for fall. It’s a hallowed time to remember and honor those who have lost their lives to the breast cancer and domestic violence and recognize the importance of awareness, education and prevention in the fight these issue as well.
Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information. For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].