Domestic violence shouldn’t be silent epidemic
Domestic violence survivors, supporters share their stories
By RENEE FOX
WARREN — If more people chose not to turn a blind eye to domestic violence and did their part to speak openly about the crime, less women, men and children would die at the hands of an intimate partner, parent or caretaker, several speakers said Monday during Someplace Safe’s 22nd Annual Unity Day.
“Break the silence. Domestic violence feeds on silence,” said Bonnie Wilson, director of Someplace Safe.
The shelter for abused women and their children has been helping victims transform into survivors for decades, Wilson said.
Unity Day is recognized nationally during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and is a chance for advocates and survivors to tell their stories. By discussing the effects of domestic violence openly, advocates pray those being victimized will take the first steps to free themselves, find the strength to say “no more” and find a way out, Wilson said.
Domestic violence affects men and women, although 85 percent of victims are women, Wilson said.
“It doesn’t discriminate, it affects people of all races, religions and economic cultures,” she said.
“Everyone can play a role in stopping domestic violence before it occurs, by becoming an engaged bystander, establishing healthy and positive relationships based on respect, safety and equality. An engaged bystander is someone who intervenes when they see or hear behaviors that provoke sexual violence,” Wilson said.
More than half of women who said they reported domestic violence said nobody helped them, Wilson said.
Seven women who work as advocates at the shelter took turns reading from a poem that humanized the deceased victims of violence by reminding the audience that each woman who dies at the hand of a partner “smelled perfume,” and “grew wild flowers and tomatoes” and yearned to be free, “even with their dying breaths.”
“Remember and be angry. Be angry that they were murdered. That they were gifts of the earth to be reclaimed from the earth, not by someone’s selfish vengeance. Remember and be angry. Remember the black eyes and broken limbs, the sleepless tortured nights, bloody, misshapen noses and purple lips. Remember the children miscarried, and those now orphaned. Remember their faces swollen from crying buckets and buckets of tears,” Someplace Safe senior advocate Shirley Green read.
Before the reading, the women stood in a line, and turned their backs to the audience as a bell tolled for each, representing the number of women abused every minute in the nation.
State Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, joined the women on the stage in the Kent State Trumbull Campus auditorium.
“Think of the lives that were cut short, and silenced, taken away from their families and their friends,” Cafaro said.
The “silent epidemic” that is domestic violence needs more awareness, Cafaro said.
“American culture is as such that we assume, we decide that we are not going to stick our noses in other people’s business, right? Maybe if somebody did stick their nose in somebody else’s business, some of these people would be here. And I know that is a tall order and it is easier said than done. But, if you see someone that may be exhibiting the signs that they are being abused, speak up, extend a hand and offer some resources,” Cafaro said.
Cafaro said she is a licensed social worker, has volunteered at Someplace Safe and at other shelters.
Abuse takes many shapes, Cafaro and Wilson said, and includes the physical abuse many think of, but also includes emotional and verbal abuse, as well as financial control.
It is hard for a person to leave an abusive situation for many reasons, Cafaro said.
“No more ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ Let me tell you something, the scars that you can’t see are sometimes deeper than the ones that you can. That is so important,” Cafaro said. “We need to let people know that just because you can’t see the abuse all the time doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Women go back to abusers for many reasons and judging them doesn’t do anything to help. Instead, it makes them feel inadequate and not valued because they haven’t lived up to expectations, Cafaro said.
Sometimes it takes several times for a woman to leave successfully, and having the support of the community makes it easier for her to transition into life without the abuser, Cafaro said.
Two women spoke about their survival stories, several read poems and attendees held a candlelight vigil during the Unity Day observance. Pastor Jamie Milton of First Presbyterian Church in Mineral Ridge delivered a prayer.