Why Domestic Violence Awareness Month is so Important

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. As Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) begins in October, I think about how a survivor's experience guides our mission and vision for the future.

By Ashley Dunn

As a survivor of domestic violence, I know how vital our resources are. I often wonder if my path would have been less rocky and littered with debris if I had known my legal rights and had access to professional support and advocacy. I don't want to wonder about that for anyone else. Our services are vital to help a victim navigate through trauma and the healing process. 

I know that if I had an advocate like the Center for Empowerment and Education (CEE) provides, my life would have taken a completely different path. I also believe that every moment of my lived experience has led me to where I am today. I know the struggles a person faces when their abuser can escape an arrest because of their connections, and the allegations were not taken seriously, even with witnesses. I know the fear as you watch your abuser sit in handcuffs while you quickly grab enough items to leave the house for the night while he "cools down." I know the anxiety a victim feels when they quietly hide money for their escape. I know the struggles of filing a temporary restraining order and hearing the court say there is no way to enforce it on an abuser living in another state. I also know that my lived experience can have a more significant and far-reaching impact to change systems utilizing living experience as expertise.

I think that society has much work to do to elevate the voices of those with lived experience and as experts because of their experience. Over the past fifteen years working in the nonprofit sector, I have heard many times that those with lived experience are a barrier instead of an asset. I questioned whether I would ever come forward as a survivor because people might look at me differently or think that because of my lived experience, my vision or judgment was clouded. I moved past that fear to demonstrate how lived experience is an asset. 

New policies and laws are brought forth because of the path that a victim has walked. It takes these experiences for decision-makers to connect a face to a story and understand the significance of their role in developing, passing, and implementing trauma-informed processes, policies, and laws. We need to embed the voices of survivors into every aspect of interpersonal violence programs and advocacy. 

DVAM might only be one month long, but we walk alongside survivors daily at CEE. CEE is here to continue to spark change, be the leader in our region to prevent and end violence, and empower victims to gain or regain control of their lives.

If you or someone you know needs support, our no-cost confidential hotlines are available 24/7.


Domestic Violence Hotline (203)731-5206

Sexual Assault Hotline (203)731-5204

Ashley Dunn is the President & CEO at The Center for Empowerment & Education.