October is recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an observance that evolved from a single “Day of Unity” in 1991, organized by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, into a month-long series of activities by advocates working across the nation to end violence against women and their children.

As part of its efforts in each of the counties served by Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, the Coalition is hosting its annual Breaking Free Campaign to spread awareness about family violence and to raise critical funds for its Emergency Safe Shelter, a place for women and children who have been displaced by family violence.

The 2020 Breaking Free Virtual Race will take place throughout the month of October. Participants are offered two challenges to complete at their own pace: the 25 Miles in 1 Month Challenge and the Long Distance Challenge. Show your support by joining the race making a contribution to a team or runner! The top fundraisers will be announced on Facebook on November 5.

Family violence has been an important topic of concern as Covid health precautions have encouraged people to stay at home and limit interactions with others, which can amplify the risks of domestic violence for those living in dangerous home environments.

While some counties across the Pee Dee region report spikes in calls or new domestic violence cases, others report levels that are similar to previous years. It is important to understand that although the data are insightful, they do not likely to represent the scope of the problem. Stay-at-home directives can make it easier for abusers to monitor victims and prevent them from reaching out for help. They can also limit the amount of outside interactions, meaning those who might typically intervene are left out of the equation.  

An important factor influencing abusers is an increase in emotional triggers. A recent analysis by Murdoch University Associate Professor and Academic Chair Guy Hall, titled “Why is Covid Making People So Aggressive” uses the Frustration Aggression Hypothesis (FAH) to explain how the impacts of Covid may contribute to outbursts of adverse behaviors or aggression.

“Based on the FAH theory, frustration acts as the basic driver to aggression, which is dependent upon attributes of the individual and their circumstances.”

Covid has caused many to lose jobs and financial security. It has also disabled routines and created multiple new challenges for families and individuals. Over time, as apprehension and frustration intensify, people are more likely to experience emotions that lead to aggressive behaviors.

Understanding how Covid enables abusers and limits victims is relatively straightforward. The more difficult work is in combatting these effects. Breaking Free honors the bravery and difficulties that victims face when leaving dangerous relationships. Pee Dee Coalition also understands that to lower the rate of abuse in the Pee Dee region, preventative action and education are crucial, which is is why it offers services and opportunities for victims, survivors, advocates and offenders.

This year, there may be reason for increased optimism with respect to domestic violence in South Carolina. The Palmetto State is no longer among the top-ten states in which women are victims of murder by an intimate partner—a first since the Violence Policy Center began tracking the data in 1996.

To support the Breaking Free Campaign and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, consider making a donation to Pee Dee Coalition by visiting www.peedeecoalition.org/donate or by supporting the Breaking Free Virtual Race at www.peedeecoalition.org/BreakingFree. Supporters can also follow the race at Facebook.com/PeeDeeCoalition and show support by using the #BreakingFree or #DVAM2020 hashtag.

Pee Dee Coalition is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to the reduction of sexual assault, family violence, and child abuse and to the needs of its victims. For more information, please contact Savannah Wright, swright@peedeecoalition.org.

Pee Dee Coalition is a member of the United Way.