Locally and across the country, domestic violence is on the rise. While October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, annually, more than four million women and three million men in our country are victimized by domestically motivated physical attacks and more than three million children witness physical violence in their homes.

There appears to be no direct or consistent cause for domestic violence and no victim is to blame for the abuse. It is blind to gender, race, ethnicity, and income and most incidents occur in intimate relationships where a partner is assumed to be trustworthy and safe; considered as family.

Earlier this year, when Kathy Hough was interviewed and invited to become a social work college intern at United Way of Santa Rosa, (UWSR), no one could have imagined she is a domestic violence survivor. "I don't ever look at myself as a victim. I'm still here, so I survived," says Hough. She went back to school pursuing a career in social work with a strong desire to share lessons and help other domestic violence victims and survivors.

Kathy first enlisted the assistance of FavorHouse of Northwest Florida after her second abusive relationship. FavorHouse, one of 14 agencies receiving support from UWSR, offers shelter and outreach counseling to victims of domestic violence and their children. Hough adds, “FavorHouse provides empowerment education to help victims become survivors. This education also provides the knowledge to recognize indicators of possible perpetrators of domestic violence.”

Another UWSR agency is Santa Rosa Kids’ House. The organization establishes efficient alliances to lessen trauma and encourage prevention of abuse for children and their families. There, treatment, prevention, and intervention are main focus areas and child abuse cases are seamlessly processed all under one roof, in order to protect and help ease the trauma of the situation.

Domestic violence can be deadly and most incidents are never reported. Many victims choose to remain silent, hiding their terrifying secrets. Victims and advocates are encouraged to learn more and when necessary, seek assistance from local authorities and service agencies.