October is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Awareness month (also referred to as Domestic Violence Awareness), a month dedicated to raising awareness about IPV, the impact it has on families, and how community members can work together to stop cycles of abuse from continuing and even starting. As the month ends, we are taking time to discuss the realities of intimate partner violence within the lives of families in our care and how deeply it impacts the way children navigate their healing and growth.
Our community partner Lumina Alliance defines Intimate Partner Violence as "physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse." It can occur between any age or sexually identified couple, and typically is used to remove power from one’s partner in order to control, harm, or manipulate them. We might think the way to stop or heal Intimate Partner Violence is to just remove the abuser from the family (or the relationship); but the fact is that even if someone is no longer under the direct threat of physical harm, they are not “free.” IPV has a life-long impact for its survivors—both those directly abused and those who witnessed the abuse, namely children.
Even when the abuser is no longer in the picture, a family is not immediately met with safety and healing. Families that leave an unsafe home often experience housing instability, financial insecurity, and may find themselves removed from support systems (other family and friends) that they previously relied upon. Often families have to rebuild their lives from the ground up in order to regain their sense of stability and safety once again.
Studies also show that children who witness Intimate Partner Violence in their families are at a higher risk for lifelong challenges, even if the child was never physically harmed themselves. Children exposed to intimate partner violence are at a higher risk for poor physical health and increased use of self-medicating substances; as well as face adverse mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. Without help, they are additionally more likely to fall into the cycle of abuse themselves.
Positively changing the realities that families and children face due to IPV is one of FCNI’s core objectives. When we meet children who have experienced abuse or high levels of trauma, we focus on providing their family with wrap-around support to ensure that the family’s most basic needs—like housing, physical stability and safety—are met, as well as their long-term mental health wellness. Through our Behavioral Health (mental health) services, we are able to provide families with the safety, time, and support they need to heal and rebuild.
FCNI’s support involves working with families to reestablish trust between a parent and their child; providing therapy and clinical care to a family; assisting a family in obtaining affordable housing vouchers or covering security deposits to secure housing; and providing family-based foster care for children who need temporary out-of-home care while their parent works towards healing. It also means leading with incredible amounts of empathy and patience, recognizing that aggressive, defiant, and other challenging behaviors displayed by children impacted by IPV are as a result of the pain and trauma they’ve experienced.
Parents who are given tangible support while they heal are able to reestablish trust within their families and help support their children grow to be safe and empathetic individuals. Children who are given the time to heal and process their trauma are less likely to engage in other toxic and/or violent relationships themselves-as either victim or the abuser.
Ultimately, support today leads to a lifetime of change tomorrow.
This October, you can support our efforts to eliminate Intimate Partner Violence and support survivors by donating today at FCNI.ORG/GIVE or by supporting our community partners including Lumina Alliance, SLO Behavioral Health, the SLO Woman Shelter, and more! Take the time today to support someone in need and Be the Difference in their lifelong journey to rebuild safety and trust. Together, as a community, we can end Intimate Partner Violence.