October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Across the country communities will honor victims of domestic violence and educate the public about this very real problem.
In Fulton and Izard counties last weekend, a Candlelight Vigil and a viewing of the Clothesline Project were held to honor victims and raise awareness about the problem in these communities.
In Sharp County on Oct. 27, a domestic violence educational program, open to the public, will be held at the Family Life Center of First Baptist Church of Cherokee Village from 2-4 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Terri Bergert, an educator with the the Little Rock based Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Speakers from local organizations who work with domestic abuse daily will also speak, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Spring River Adult and Child Services Agency (SACS) and a speaker from the medical aspect of domestic violence. A skit will be presented regarding domestic violence, its victims and our systems reactions will be presented by the local GFWC Quapaw Women's Club. The program will address the prevalence of domestic violence, what it is, how to recognize it, the battlefront against violence and help for domestic violence victims. This educational seminar is organized by the Family Ministry Team of FBC of Cherokee Village.
In 2005, according to the FBI, 1,858 females were murdered by males in the United States. Of these, 62 percent were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. In 2006, 17 women in Arkansas were among those victims.
Jane Brody, writing in The New York Times notes that "American women have more to fear from the men they know and once loved than from any stranger." Although men are sometimes the victims of domestic violence, it is women who are usually battered.
The abuse does not, however, stop with physical abuse. While the broken bones and bruises may heal in time, the emotional damage may last a lifetime. Often, victims feel guilty for what has happened to them, especially if children are involved. Why couldn't they be a better mother, they wonder. How can they deprive their children of a father? They feel great pressure to stay in the marriage.
Through strict control of the victim, the abuser often gradually takes away the self-esteem of the victim. Isolation is one tactic commonly used. The victim is kept at home as much as possible. Transportation and often phones are taken away. Friends are not welcome. To object to these conditions is to invite more abuse. At will, the abuser may express intermittent acts of kindness toward the victim, asking for forgiveness, promising to be a loving mate. Commonly, the victim will be filled with hope and forgive the mate only to soon face abuse again. The cycle tends to repeat itself over and over.
Often, society tends to image the batterer as a thug, a dopehead, an angry bully. While some batterers do fit this image, many do not. The offender may publically appear to be the perfect gentleman -- a loving husband and father, the lawyer next door, the UPS driver across the street the deacon in the church. David Adams, writing in the Boston Bar Journal, says that "one third of men counseled for battering are professional men, well respected in their jobs and communities." Domestic violence is found across society, crossing all socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, educational, age and religious lines.
Across the nation many domestic violence agencies work with victims trying to eliminate or lessen family violence. One such agency in the local area is Safe Passage, a faith-based agency in existence since 2003. This agency, through community support and grants, operates a safe house where victims and their children can live while they get their lives back together. The agency offers support groups and classes on the dynamics of domestic violence and independent living, while providing information regarding services available in the community. The agency also advocates for the victims in court when necessary. From October 2006 to September 2007, the agency served 127 adults and 90 children, providing thousands of hours of services. The shelter housed 25 women and 32 children for a total of 2,691 bed nights.
To help meet the financial needs of the agency, a resale shop, located at 703 E. Main in Melbourne, (the old hospital building near the stoplight.) It is open five days a week. Volunteers are always needed in the resale shop and the safe house as well as for other fundraising efforts. Anyone who is willing to help in these efforts should call the Safe Passage office at 870-368-3236. Those seeking help in dealing with domestic violence can call the 24-hour hotline at 870-258-7777.