Marking the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Catholic University of America has released a toolkit to help connect victims with the resources they need.

The toolkit was assembled by Catholics for Family Peace Education and Research Initiative, a part of the university's National Catholic School of Social Service.

It includes several links to resources from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organizations that combat domestic abuse. The materials strongly encourage the faithful to spread this information.

"Domestic violence affects the whole family, including any children," reads the resource kit.  "Faith communities are called to offer hope, help, and healing to all harmed by domestic abuse and violence."  

The kit stresses the importance of education about sexual assault, as well as aids for a social media campaign to help spread awareness and support. It also stresses that domestic abuse "is not a private family matter" and that it is "serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans."

According to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate or domestic partner in their lifetime.  

Domestic violence also encompasses psychological harm, in addition to physical and sexual harm. According to statistics by the Bureau of Justice, nearly 4 out of 5 victims of domestic violence are female.

The toolkit instructs those close to victims of domestic abuse to believe their friend's stories and reaffirm that "the abuse is not God's will."

The school's materials instruct those who know of abuse to refer victims to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, noting that "without intervention, abuse often escalates in frequency and severity over time." They also strongly encourage victims and their partners to seek out counseling for domestic violence, not just couples' counseling, which can prolong the issue or shift the blame to the victim.

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Furthermore, the resources point to the saints as "an ever present help" and suggest several prayers and novenas to St. Jude and to the Holy Spirit for guidance for those dealing with difficult situations.

The university's materials invite the faithful to join in a moment of solidarity and prayer for the intentions of those suffering from domestic violence at 3:00 p.m. every day in October. Prayers and quotes from Pope Francis and the saints regarding domestic abuse are also included, as well as intentions to pray at the Prayer of the Faithful each Sunday in October.

With these tools as a starting point, The Catholic University of America and the Catholics for Family Peace hope to "inform the Catholic community on ways to promote family peace and to prevent and respond to domestic abuse and to provide resources and promote prayer for all families."

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