“…Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, which, among many other things, should prompt us to reflect upon whether or not we take these “unalienable rights” memorialized in the Declaration of Independence seriously.

Acts of domestic violence are ultimately crimes of power that involve perpetrators who seek total control over their victims. This criminal pursuit towards domination robs a person of their very own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness--sometimes to a state of irreversible despair.

Yet throughout history, the public has often considered acts of domestic violence to be justified, not a crime at all, or “too personal” of an issue for the public’s eye. In reality, these crimes have left women, men, and children shells of their former selves, completely deprived of the inherent promises sacred to the founding of our country.

Blame, retaliation, intimidation, inaction, and an ultimate disregard for a survivor’s suffering only continue to deny her or his life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. A survivor has to re-understand who she or he is without any form of suppression from the perpetrator: recovery based upon independence.

Thankfully, help does exist for survivors of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline serves as a 24/7, toll-free resource for all those who seek help. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is just one other example. This organization encourages better governmental, criminal justice, and law enforcement response to these crimes. The coalition raises awareness and better educates the public as to what domestic violence actually entails instead of unsupported myths.

Ohio also has its very own domestic violence prevention activists, such as the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, working to help survivors on their road to recovery. Additionally, nearly every county within the state has at least one domestic violence shelter that can be identified through this link.

The conversation around domestic violence continues to grow and evolve. Due to recent egregious examples of domestic violence, the National Football League has begun to revamp its approach, or lack thereof, to handling these cases involving its players. We can only hope that the NFL’s upcoming advocacy resonates with its current fans and fans to come.

When we speak of domestic violence, we ultimately need to speak in terms of liberty.  Every human being deserves a life free of violence and intimidation. This also means that if one is subjected to inhumane cruelty, then one should have the opportunity and support to pursue justice and to revive their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”