In honor of October’s being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the U.S. House of Representatives Bipartisan Working Group to End Domestic Violence hosted a panel discussion about how to address the crime of domestic violence and support survivors. 

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) is one of the Congressional Co-Chairs of the Working Group and spoke about her own personal experience as a domestic violence survivor. Congresswoman Lesko described her experience with an abusive ex-husband and the hardship she faced caring for her young daughter. Lesko said she likes to discuss her own experience, because, “I have a good story of hope.” 

Hope is needed when domestic violence statistics are reviewed.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women and one in ten men experience sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner in their lifetime. Over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 

Children are also gravely affected by domestic violence. One in three children who witness domestic violence are also child abuse victims. When children grow up in abusive and violent situations, they are three times as likely to engage in violent behavior. These children are also at greater risk of serious adult health problems like obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease and substance abuse.

We should be thankful that there are organizations working to address the specific needs of children and break the cycle of violence. The Alliance for Hope, based in San Diego, is one such organization and participated in the congressional event.  Its co-founder and President, Casey Gwinn said it is important to “Turn Pain into Power and Power into Hope.” 

The Alliance for Hope offers a program for kids called Camp HOPE America.  This program provides evidence-based mentoring and camping experiences for children exposed to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Camp HOPE provides a pathway to give children their childhood back. It is the leading year-round camping and mentoring program for children and teens impacted by domestic violence. 

Another organization represented during the congressional event was A New Leaf based in Arizona. Dana Martinez is the Director of Shelter Services and stressed the importance of addressing the needs of children who have witnessed domestic violence. A New Leaf operates a 24-Hour Crisis Hotline and offers security and shelter to women, children and men fleeing abuse. A New Leaf offers hope to children and families in Arizona.

It inspires hope to see Congresswoman Lesko remember her own struggle and shine a light on organizations working to assist children caught up in the trauma of domestic violence.  When October has passed, these children must not be forgotten and the work must continue.