by Anni Lampert, HELP of Door County Advocate and CCR Co-coordinator
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, first observed in 1981 as a time to speak up about domestic violence, raise awareness and support survivors of this devastating, yet common experience. This year’s theme is Power Up, which encourages people who identify as engagers, or allies, to consider how powerful their spark can be in helping to create a larger group devoted to reducing and eliminating domestic violence.
Anyone can experience domestic violence because it knows no constraints of intelligence, education, social standing, income, sex or age. Of reported cases – just the ones we know about – one in four women and one in six men have experienced domestic violence during their lifetime. This means you already know someone who has or is dealing with this soul-crushing reality.
Those who know this pain firsthand recognize it in others in ways that those who have not experienced it cannot. If you have been affected by domestic violence, you perhaps felt embarrassed, ashamed or invisible. You may remember asking yourself, “How could I let this happen to me?” or “How did I get myself into this mess?”
If you see neighbors, friends or colleagues in that kind of pain, remember these two things: It is not your job to save them. It is your job, however, to let them know that you see them and that you can help connect them to one of the many helping agencies in Door County.
All of us in helping agencies refer people to other agencies all the time. If our agency isn’t quite right, we’ll get those who are experiencing domestic violence to the one that is. We call it the “Any Door Way” because whichever door people enter, they will receive compassionate, respectful help.
For those who have no personal experience with domestic violence, here are some warning signs to watch for:
• Incessant calling or texting
• Looking through your phone
• Intense jealousy
• Accusations of infidelity
• Shaming, blaming or belittling talk
• Forced sex
• Controlling money or your ability to get to work or keep your job
Behavior that may start out feeling attentive can shift into something controlling and scary, but it can be hard to recognize exactly when that line has been crossed. One day, you realize the relationship is just not feeling right, but you’re afraid to bring it up because you know how poorly that conversation will be received.
Engagers know the warning signs, too, and every day, more engagers step forward to point out warning signs and help their friends who are experiencing domestic violence.
It can be as simple as saying, “Dude, not cool,” when you see a guy taking a girl’s phone. Or, “Can I pick you up for work tomorrow?”
CCR is Coordinated Community Response. In Door County, nearly 100 professionals gather regularly to share their expertise about the many issues facing the people we serve who are experiencing domestic violence and/or sexual assault.