Veronica Hendrix

*October is a lot of things.

It’s the time of year that begins to feel like fall in many parts of the nation.
It signals that we are entering the holiday season whether we are ready or not.

But more importantly, it’s a month that we turn our collective attention to women as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Most of the attention has been focused on increasing awareness about breast cancer. And so many are doing their part to raise awareness from football players wearing pink wrist bands, skull caps and gloves on the field to the pink pylons at the Los Angeles International Airport dotting the landscape for all to see, and the even the White House is  lit up in pink during the month.

It is certainly a worthy issue to highlight. Breast cancer is a devastating disease.  It is estimated that breast cancer will claim nearly 40,000 lives this year and over 230,000 women will be diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast by the end of the 2011. These are staggering numbers.

But Domestic Violence Awareness Month has essentially faded into the shadows. Perhaps it doesn’t have the same altruistic value as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both observances recognize the plight of it’s victims to be sure. But the victims of domestic violence are not at the hands of a gene mutation, they are solely at the hands of another individual, usually an intimate partner.

It’s easy to forget how staggering the numbers are:
o    An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
o    85% of domestic violence victims are women.
o    The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services.
o    Victims of intimate partner violence lost almost 8 million days of paid work because of the violence perpetrated against them by current or former husbands, boyfriends and dates. This loss is the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity as a result of violence.
o    Almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.

Who wants to be reminded of these alarming statistics let alone strike up the band and take up a cause célèbre about an issue most people bury at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper?

Breast cancer is real. Gone untreated it can be deadly. The same can be said for domestic violence as well. Too many women have lost their lives to this awful malady.

The one that impales me of late happened a few weeks ago here in Los Angeles. Cindi Santana, a 17-year-old student at South East High School in South Gate, California, was allegedly stabbed to death by her 18-year-old boyfriend during lunchtime.  Her boyfriend, angry about their recent breakup, had just been released on bail after making criminal threats against Cindi.

Just this week in Seal Beach, which is about 27 miles south of Los Angeles, a man opened fire in a crowded beauty salon and killed eight people, critically wounding one. As of writing this piece details are still coming in but it is alleged that the gunman went to kill his ex-wife, an employee at the salon,  whom he was involved in a custody dispute. Reports are that he did kill his intended target.

Stories like these aren’t that unusual. Yet when they are reported it causes an intense dis-ease.

It is ironic that during Domestic Violence Awareness Month that the infinitely wise Topeka, Kansas City Council voted to decriminalize domestic violence. The vote was 7 to 3 to repeal the local law that makes domestic violence a crime. The bottom line was budget – the District Attorney’s office budget was cut 10%. That reduction didn’t leave the city with the needed “staff or infrastructure to provide victims of domestic violence with the level of service they have come to expect.”

The cuts won’t go into effect until next year. But when they do, Topeka, Kansas will stop prosecuting domestic violence cases. What’s the message here? It’s simple, domestic violence is not a crime, well at least in Topeka.

Perhaps it’s time for Domestic Violence Awareness Month to come out from the shadows now more than ever. If so goes Topeka, Kansas, will others follows? For more information about domestic violence and Domestic Violence Awareness Month visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

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. For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected]