One in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. That's according to a recent survey by the Center for Disease Control.
In Pittsburgh, the Women's Center and Shelter have been trying to raise awareness on the issue through billboards and radio and television ads. At a Valentine's Day luncheon with local business leaders, the center announced the campaign has been successful in raising awareness, though more needs to be done.
"There's a huge culture of 'Oh, that can't happen to me, that happens to someone else and they look like this,'" said center Executive Director Shirl Regan. "What we want to be able to tell people is, 'It happens to all of us, and you never know when it's going to happen.'"
Part of the campaign, which uses candy hearts with cruel sayings to convey the message that "not all relationships are as they seem," was spurred after a survey of women in the Pittsburgh region found there was a high level of victimization but not many people knew where to get help. The level of awareness of the center rose from 47.2 to 59.2 percent.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton addressed the crowd, and said there is a high level of commitment in the U.S. government from the President down to ending domestic and sexual violence, but added it's not enough.
"So I say to you — both the private sector and the public sector — we can and we must do better. The problems we face in this arena cannot be solved by government alone," he said.
The Women's Center and Shelter reached out to the business community, asking for partnerships and sponsorships. The President of the Center's board, Sara Davis Buss, appealed to the executives, and pointed out that domestic violence goes beyond being a social issue. She said it affects worker productivity and "it also contributes greatly to rising health care costs for employers, another bottom line issue, in fact it's estimated that health costs resulting from rape, assault, stalking, and homicide, by intimate partners exceeded $5.8 billion in our country each year."
The Center and Shelter offer a range of services, including a hotline and shelter for women, children, and men affected by domestic violence. Last year, 10,943 people received domestic violence-related services.