UW Sunday Column 8-31-14: How to raise awareness of domestic violence in October

Angela Bertoni
As originally published in the State Journal-Register, Our Towns section

Angela BertoniDid you know?

On average in the United States, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends and at least one in three women globally are beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In most cases, the abuser is a member of her own family.

Domestic violence is a costly and persistent problem in our country, causing victims, as well as witnesses and innocent bystanders, in every community to suffer incalculable pain and loss.

In addition to the lives that are taken and unnecessary injuries that are suffered, domestic violence shatters one’s sense of well-being and prevents people from thriving. It also often causes health problems that last a lifetime and diminishes many children’s prospects in school and in life.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, minimized or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused.

Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse are not due to an abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior.  In fact, abusive behavior and violence are deliberate choices made by a perpetrator in order to control another person through dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation and denial/blame.

We need to teach the next generation that violence is wrong, as well as make considerable strides to train more healthcare providers to assess patients for abuse, implement workplace prevention initiatives, create more victim support programs and make services available to all victims.

Locally, Sojourn Shelter & Services, Inc., is making strides in the prevention of domestic violence and provides our community a safe haven for victims of domestic violence to rebuild their lives.

Sojourn provides the only secure domestic violence shelter in a five-county area of central Illinois. Sojourn provides emergency shelter, court/legal advocacy, comprehensive counseling, a 24-hour emergency hotline and other advocacy services for adult and child victims of domestic violence.

Last year, 4,678 lives were touched by Sojourn’s services, including 7,332 nights of safe shelter and more than 12,783 hours of advocacy to victims in our community.

Sojourn is here, responding and saving lives, much like the police and fire departments…every hour of every day. Services are confidential, available 24-hours/day and provided free of charge through the generous support of organizations such as the United Way of Central Illinois and those of you in our community who support United Way initiatives. We hope that you continue to give generously to our community fund and help us stop the cycle of violence.

During October, we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, raising awareness for this serious public health problem.

Domestic violence thrives when we are silent, but if we take a stand and work together, we can end it. As we head into the upcoming months, we are asking for your help to raise awareness about domestic violence and join in our efforts to end violence.
Here is how you can help:

  • Join us for our second annual Heroes for Sojourn 5K and Kids Fund Run on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 9 a.m. at Washington Park. Participants receive a free, catered brunch, Dri-FIT shirt, participant medal and drawstring tote bag. Participants are encouraged to dress in purple or come dressed as a favorite real-life or fictional hero. Registration can be done through mail or you can register online at getmeregistered.com .
  • Display purple porch lights during the month of October.
  • Wear purple on Fridays during the month of October.
  • Shop and donate your gently used items at Sojourn’s Resale Store behind Kohl’s. Funds generated from the sales of these items support Sojourn’s shelter.
  • And, help us spread the word. If you or anyone you know needs immediate help for domestic violence, please call our 24-hour hotline at 726-5200.

Angela Bertoni is the chief executive officer of Sojourn Shelter & Services. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.

Read the column as originally published in the SJ-R here: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140902/News/140909925