October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
I have had people ask me, often in a whispering tone, “Does that really happen here in Patrick County? Domestic violence? Really?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes! Unfortunately.” It would be nice to say that as beautiful as Patrick County is to look at and live in, that it’s not here. However, there is domestic violence all over Patrick County, all over this region, this state, this country, and this world. Even though each victim’s situation is different, they are remarkably the same. Frequently, most victims have stayed with or returned to their abusers several times before deciding—if they decide—that they’re ready to move on. The cycle of abuse is a consistent pattern of abusive behaviors. Once I described the cycle of abuse to a victim: “Everything is so good for a while, and then the tension builds up and builds until something bad happens. Then there is a reconciliation with apologies or promises and, again, everything is good for a while before the tension builds up again and then something bad happens again, and over and over …” The bruised victim looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Do you know him?” My answer was “No, but I recognize the cycle of abuse.” Sadly it continues, over and over, until each period of time is shorter and shorter and eventually the reconciliation, calm and tension periods become non-existent and there is more frequent and more dangerous violence. Many ask “Why do they stay?” or “Why don’t they just leave?” and in some cases “Why do they go back?” Many of those asking these questions assume they know exactly how they would react if they were in that situation. However, most of us would be equally shocked and scared if our circumstances were the same. Leaving is a process for all victims. It is not simply walking away. It involves a victim coming to an internal agreement in his or her heart, mind, body and soul that taking care of yourself is more important than the mental and emotional connection you have had with your abuser. Sometimes the “things” of the relationship have to be left behind, and the victim must start over with nothing. Sometimes victims feel they are the only ones who understand their abusers or they can “fix” their abusers. It’s difficult for victims to believe that they trusted the person. Many times, victims have become less of themselves over time and simply don’t have any self-confidence, self-esteem or self-worth left. In some cases, the fear of reporting the abuse is great, due to the feeling that the victim will not be believed, or the threats of danger or death. Face it: it is difficult to believe that abusers have such lack of respect for other people that they would resort to the behaviors of domestic violence. The list of reasons that domestic violence continues is as different as each couple … yet they all have similarities. It is important to know that no one wants to be the victim of domestic violence. However, most of us know at least one person—it might be a friend or family member or neighbor or even you—who has experienced some form of domestic violence. Knowing who to contact for help is vital. Basic safety planning includes calling 911 or going to the magistrate’s or sheriff’s office. There are many other options to safety planning that can be discussed with your local domestic violence agency advocate. Here in Patrick County, the Southside Survivor Response Center provides that free service. You can reach the local advocate at (276) 692-5504 or the agency directly at (276) 403-4080. There is also a 24-hour Help Line at 1-877-WE-HELP6 (934-3576). Or check us out at www.SSRCenter.org. If you are in an abusive relationship, remember: You are not alone! It is NOT your fault. Help is available.
Sincerely, Sandy Dawson
Patrick County Advocate Southside Survivor Response Center