Since its founding in 1872, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has been an advocate of improving the health of all U.S. residents. Every April, the APHA hosts National Public Health Week, a campaign to educate the public on current health issues. This year’s theme is Looking Back, Moving Forward, and its focus is on mental health (Monday), maternal and children’s health (Tuesday), violence prevention (Wednesday), environmental health (Thursday), education (Friday), healthy housing (Saturday), and economics (Sunday).
Wednesday Is Violence Prevention Day
Violence is a problem that never goes away. The statistics are alarming, especially the fact that violence is the leading cause of premature death. On average, 36,000 Americans die due to gun violence each year, which comes out to about 100 per day. Death by guns increased by 16 percent in just three years recently, from 2014 to 2017. And according to Giffords Law Center, Americans are 25 times as likely to die from gun violence than people in nations of similar wealth.
Not only is gun violence a concern, but so is domestic violence. One in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence at the hands of their partners, and one of out of every six women have been victims of rape or attempted rape.
Children do not fare much better. Each year 6.6 million children are referred to state child protective services for abuse or neglect, which is equivalent to one report being made every 10 seconds.
Violence does not discriminate. It is prevalent among all ages, races, and economic groups of the population.
What Can Health Professionals Do?
Public health professionals can help reduce rates of violence by:
• Encouraging lawmakers to pass measures restricting the availability of guns.
• Working with administrators in higher education on ways to prevent sexual violence on and around campuses.
• Promoting support for sexual violence victims, including trauma services.
• Strategizing to promote safe and nurturing environments within communities to prevent child abuse and neglect.
• Advocating for gun-safety laws, home-visiting models to reduce the risk of child mistreatment, and investment in community needs to disrupt the cycles of poverty, alcoholism, and abuse.
What Can Individuals Do?
Individuals within communities can act together to stop violence by:
• Reporting incidences of violence that they witness or experience.
• Seeking treatment for violent tendencies, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
• Setting up a community patrol or Neighborhood Watch program.
• Parenting in a way that helps children develop coping skills.
• Reducing access to guns and knives in homes and communities.
• Cleaning up graffiti and litter, removing abandoned cars, and making the neighborhood inviting and not a refuge for criminals.
• Organizing recreational programs, part-time job opportunities, tutoring help, and volunteer activities for youths.
• Working with schools and recreation officials to establish drug-free zones.
• Volunteering to help with youth sports.
• Volunteering to work hotlines that aid victims of violence.
How to Get Help
If you or someone close to you is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1. When safe, contact these hotlines for 24-hour help:
• Adult Protective Services: 800-510-2020—report elder abuse and abuse of dependent adults.
• Becky’s House, YWCA: 619-234-3164—receive referrals and emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence; bilingual staff.
• Child Abuse Hotline: 800-344-6000—report child abuse, molestation, and neglect.
• Community Resource Center: 877-633-1112—request shelter from domestic violence.
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233 and a chat service at https://www.thehotline.org/help/ if it is not safe to speak—find resources for domestic violence victims.
• National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 800-656-4873—obtain information on sexual assault service providers.
• San Diego Family Justice Center Victim Services: 619-533-6000 and 619-533-6001—find help for families dealing with domestic tension, abuse and violence.
• 211 San Diego: 2-1-1—learn of links to community resources, including crisis information.
Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The home can be one of the most dangerous places for women and children who experience domestic violence. With everyone spending copious amounts of time in their homes during the novel coronavirus pandemic, many people will continue to be victimized. Indeed, China has already reported an increase in domestic violence cases, and phone calls to the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline have increased.
Although resources and staff may be short at shelters, emergency help is still available. Call 9-1-1 if in immediate danger, or 800-799-7233 for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can put people in touch with local resources. A chat service is available at https://www.thehotline.org/help/ if it is unsafe to speak. The hard of hearing can phone 800-787-3224, y para ayuda en español, llame 888-724-7240. Also, see Say San Diego’s website at https://www.saysandiego.org/get-involved/resources/domestic-violence-resources/ for a list of domestic violence services and shelters.
Sources: ChildHelp, “Child Abuse Statistics & Facts,” https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/; Giffords Law Center, “Gun Violence Statistics,” https://lawcenter.giffords.org/facts/gun-violence-statistics/; Los Angeles Police Department, “Ten Things Adults Can Do to Stop Violence, http://www.lapdonline.org/crime_prevention/content_basic_view/1360; New York Times, “Where Can Domestic Violence Victims Turn During Covid-19?” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/opinion/covid-domestic-violence.html; San Diego County, “Office of Violence Prevention,” https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/hhsa/programs/phs/office_violence_prevention/; SAY San Diego, Resources, https://www.saysandiego.org/get-involved/resources/domestic-violence-resources/; World Health Organization, “Violence Prevention: The Evidence,” https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/4th_milestones_meeting/evidence_briefings_all.pdf.