2008-10-09 / Local & State

October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

WIN asks you to help end abuse

Victims of domestic violence experience physical, emotional, verbal, psychological and sexual abuse in their relationships; one in four relationships involve some form of violence, yet many people do not know the indicators of an abusive relationship. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month - a time to increase our knowledge about the crime of violence within relationships. Recognizing the indicators of an abusive relationship, understanding the dangers of those relationships and knowing how to help are just as important as knowing about eating disorders, yet people are reluctant to talk about relationship violence.

In 2006 (2007 numbers have not been officially released.), 92 victims of domestic violence lost their lives at the hands of an abusive partner/ family member. Five of those who died were under 18; three of the deaths occurred in Franklin County.

In each situation, every survivor of domestic violence is unique, with a different personality, a variety of life experiences, and a batterer who is just as unique. At the same time, there are some dynamics and effects of abusive relationships that are fairly common. Knowing those dynamics can make the difference between intervening or not.

Most survivors will express some level of fear of their abuser. This fear can range from mild discomfort to extreme anxiety.

Everyday activities like making phone calls, running late or even spending time talking with a friend may create discomfort or anxiety.

While some survivors may have noticeable or unexplained injuries, others will show no indicators of physical abuse.

Some victims may appear unable or reluctant to make simple decisions. These decisions are ones that as a friend or family member you may take for granted, such as spending a small amount of money, purchasing a toy or other item for a child, setting appointments or returning phone calls.

Victims may feel isolated from friends and family members, having little support outside of the abusive partner. A friend who suddenly stops participating in longtime activities or relationships may be experiencing isolation within their relationship.

Victims of violence often experience multiple separations and reconciliations with their abusive partner. This process of separation and return to a relationship is a normal part of the abusive cycle.

Recognizing the indicators of an abusive relationship are paramount to knowing how to intervene and offer assistance. For a victim of violence to feel as though they have moved into the role of a survivor, it is important they be given reassurance and support. Victims need to know that they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, that they are not alone, that help is available and that they are supported by friends and family even if they return to the abusive relationship.

Support can mean sitting with someone, listening to their fears and concerns, or holding their hand while they question their own worth and decisions. Support can mean offering options or phone numbers of those who can provide options. One such agency is Women In Need. Victims and survivors are offered support, options and reassurances. Services are offered without a charge and are confidential.

Those who turn to Women In Need are able to call the 24-hour helpline at 800-621-6660 for crisis intervention or support, they can receive

legal options regarding the violence they have experienced or access

the emergency shelter if they are in need of a safe place to stay.

If you are unsure of how to help a friend or family member, offer to take them out for a cup of coffee. Area coffee shops are supporting Women In Need this month by distributing coffee sleeves with WIN's information on them. Use that cup of coffee and the provided sleeve to open a conversation about how important having a service that helps victims can be, share what you have learned about relationship violence and let the conversation flow from there. Not a coffee drinker? Starbucks is displaying artwork created by WIN clients throughout the month - take your friend there for an art viewing and a specialty drink, or a pastry. Whatever option you choose, coffee, pastry or just asking the questions, it's something you can do to increase the safety of someone you care about.

October may be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but domestic violence victims need support all year long. If you have questions or wish to learn more, please call Women In Need at 717-264-3056. For crisis support call 800-621-6660.

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