Raising awareness now to continue all year long

Published 5:43 pm Friday, October 16, 2020

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There are plenty of “awareness” months all throughout the year that definitely deserve our attention. One of those issues highlighted every October is domestic violence awareness, and so this week I want to shine a spotlight on ways to reach out and help victims.

Domestic violence—abusive behavior typically committed by a spouse or partner—is sometimes called a “quiet epidemic” because it often happens behind closed doors, in the privacy of people’s homes and away from prying eyes of the outside world. Bruises can be covered up. Verbal abuse leaves no physical scars. The struggle victims face can unfortunately be easy to overlook sometimes. Many survivors report that they often felt like they couldn’t reach out for help.

The abusive behavior, whether it’s physical or mental or sexual, is usually a part of a pattern which traps the victim, making it difficult for them to get away, or even to consider getting away.

That’s why it sometimes takes other people reaching out to help get victims out of a bad situation.

According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence from their partner. In North Carolina, those numbers jump to almost 44 percent of women who experience some form of domestic violence as well as 19 percent of men.

Domestic violence is an insidious problem that affects so many people. Even if you’re not a victim yourself, odds are that you know someone who is.

So what can you do to help?

Firstly, know the “warning signs” that could indicate abuse. According to NCADV, there is no one defining portrait of an abuser, though there are often some commonalities. Abusers can be extremely jealous, possessive, controlling (ranging anywhere from the victim’s finances to their clothing choices), demeaning, blaming, harassing, and much more.

Secondly, be a source of support for victims. Many people in abusive situations are isolated from others. Reach out so they know they’ll have support. That help can come in different forms, even if it’s as simple as being a listening ear when they need it. It’s never easy to break away from an abusive relationship—some victims leave and then go back multiple times—but having people on the “outside” to rely on can potentially give them the push they need. Even if you can’t personally help, you can direct them to the right resources.

Thirdly, know what those resources are. The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224. NCADV’s website (ncadv.org) provides information on how to make a safety plan and what else you may need to know. Locally, we also have the nonprofit organization Roanoke-Chowan S.A.F.E. to provide assistance to victims in a variety of different ways. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has limited face-to-face service the past few months, they’re still working and able to help people get out of abusive situations. They can be reached at 252-332-1933.

Lastly, you can also provide support to local organizations that help victims. S.A.F.E., for example, always accepts donations for their emergency shelter. It’s good that we have local resources in our area for an issue like this, and nonprofits only remain open by the generosity of the community.

I wrote an article for this newspaper a few years ago about a domestic violence awareness event held at Roanoke-Chowan Community College. One of the speakers there acknowledged that getting away from an abuser is hard, but it’s okay to “start over.”

“A lot of people stay because they feel like they can’t start over again,” the speaker explained. “They don’t have the money to do this, and they don’t have the money to do that. But there’s a lot of resources out there that can help. And there’s nothing wrong with starting over again.”

Domestic violence awareness month is a reminder for all of us to acknowledge how the issue can affect people. We can’t just plug our ears and pretend it isn’t a widespread issue in the world. We’re already halfway through October, but even when the month is over, victims will still need advocates to speak up for them and reach out a helping hand.

Let’s all resolve to do that.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.