October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the country.
Yes, there are a lot of awareness months, and yes, they usually come with their own sets of statistics and ribbon colors, and yes, dutifully, we all shake our heads and wonder how someone could possibly do such a thing to someone else.
And then we move on.
This year, this month, let’s try to do something different.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a reminder to us all to help us be more accepting, to be better listeners and braver in our willingness to stand up and support our own family members and neighbors when they feel the most unsupported.
In other words, a reminder for us to be more aware, not only in our passive agreement, but in our action.
Across the country, about one-third of women and a quarter of men will experience some form of physical violence from an intimate partner. In Missouri, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the numbers are even more startling: 41.8 percent of women and 35.2 percent of men experience intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence or stalking during their lifetime.
There are some of the statistics, the numbers that should be enough to reinforce that in any community, including and especially our own, someone we know needs our support. Or maybe we’re the ones looking for the support of others.
And we already know the pandemic has only made those situations worse, and less likely to be reported — about half already went unreported before the pandemic.
In fact, none of those statistics are likely to be much of a surprise — we’ve probably all heard them or some variation before. Then we shook our heads, and wondered how someone could possibly do such a thing to someone else.
And then we moved on.
Nothing we write in an editorial can make the difference between being someone who can be counted on for someone else, and not being that person. So we won’t try.
Last year, The Forum spoke to two women, Pam and Tara, who shared their stories and their struggles with readers, and how circumstances and a lack of support made getting out of violent, abusive relationships incredibly difficult. The full article is still available on our website, and it’s their words that can make a difference to all of us who need to hear it:
Pam noted that she lost some of the closest friends she had during the process of leaving the marriage.
“I just noticed that they would stop calling,” she said, explaining that her husband at the time was from the community in which they lived and had ties to it, but she did not.
“They thought he was the best thing since sugar, but the minute he walked in the door it was totally different and they didn’t believe anything that I had to say, whoever I reached out to,” Pam said. “Even my minister questioned me, which was very hard.”
That was one of the hardest parts about leaving that long-term relationship, not just having raised children there, but losing a life and friends. Pam and Tara both said that in their marriages, their husbands knew exactly how to act to hide within their communities, which made finding help and leaving the relationship even more difficult.
“There are some forms of abuse women might not think are abuse,” Pam said. “Anything that you don’t ask to be done to you or anything that feels uncomfortable (is abuse.)”
Yes, we all know the statistics, even if we don’t know the exact numbers offhand. We’ve all heard the message. We’ve all shaken our heads, wondered how someone could possibly do such a thing to someone else, and then moved on.
And so had Pam’s friends. And Pam’s pastor. So has everyone else in our community.
So this month, instead of shaking our heads and moving on, we need to be asking ourselves, when someone we know needs our support, are we aware enough to listen, and give it?
The North Star Advocacy Center is open to anyone in need of help escaping abuse, serving Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties in northwest Missouri. Call the hotline at 866-382-7867 for immediate assistance, or to learn more about forms of abuse, ways to donate, or statistics visit northstarac.org.