We now find ourselves in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a period set aside to bring attention to an issue that is so often hidden away. Domestic violence, defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse used by an intimate partner against another, can be difficult to identify. Unfortunately, many victims have been manipulated into thinking such actions are out of love and never seek help. That’s why having a month where we can spread awareness is so important—we must spread the message that those who experience domestic violence are not alone and that there are communities out there ready to help you to safety. We must work together to reduce the statistics of domestic violence and remove the stigma associated with coming forth as a victim.

Last year, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network reported that 115 fatalities occurred in 83 cases of domestic violence, a number that is much too high and fails to include the hundreds of instances of domestic violence that go unreported. One of the goals for the awareness month is to bring light to more of these unknown incidences of domestic violence. We also aim to educate those who might not be in a situation where they feel they can be open about their experiences, to let them know that if you are a victim, there is always a way out of any situation, no matter how scared you may be. There is a path toward the love and respect we all deserve as humans.

The Ohio House has worked on several pieces of legislation concerning domestic violence. One such bill, Judy’s Law, was recently signed into law. The bill was named after a central Ohio woman who was set ablaze by her estranged boyfriend and, through her own tenacity, lived for almost 2 years after the incident. Unfortunately, Judy has passed but her law, Judy’s Law, strengthens penalties for offenders of felonious assault if an accelerant is used in committing the crime.

Current legislative efforts are just one step toward policy reform that brings justice to offenders and strengthens victims of terrible acts of abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at any time, day or night, at 1-800-799-7233.

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