October is recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But exposure for the issue received a head start in September this year when several high-profile incidents involving National Football League stars rose to the headlines. Reaction resulted in outrage as graphic videos and descriptions of assaults hit mainstream media.
Unfortunately, these incidents are not new or isolated. Nor are they foreign to Union County. Similar acts of abuse occur in our neighbors’ homes on a regular basis.
“We’re outraged daily,” said Kristi Butler, Community Education Coordinator of Turning Point, the domestic violence shelter that serves Union County. “Sometimes we feel like people aren’t ‘getting it.’ Because they’re not ‘seeing’ it happen like they just did on TV. We see it more than normal. With all the things that have gone on in the NFL, it has raised awareness. We don’t know how much it’s going to change things. If this is something that would cause a big social movement, that would be awesome.”
The Ohio Attorney General reports that Union County law enforcement responded to 114 domestic related calls last year. The Health Policy Institute reports that 250-460 Union County adults are physically abused each year by a current or former partner.
“These are just the reported numbers,” said Butler. “There are so many more. Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes in the United States.”
A Turning Point staff member counsels a victim at the domestic violence shelter that serves Union County. The shelter has housed 14 Union County residents so far this year, with an average stay of 62 days. The shelter, located in Marion, offers secure shelter, food, personal hygiene items, and clothing. Safety planning and resources are discussed during peer support groups. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Turning Point can provide your workplace, classroom, Church, or group
with guest speakers to present on the topic. For more information, please contact 1-800-232-6505 or visit www.turningpoint6.com.
Abuse comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and financial abuse. Name calling is verbal abuse. Threatening to take children and isolating the victim are emotional abuse. Forced sex is a means of sexual abuse. Having total control of a household’s money is a form of financial abuse. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior that happens over and over and escalates in severity over time.
“Think about an ice sculpture,” Butler said. “If you chip away at the ice, you’d chip away a little here and a little there. And by the time you get done, where you once had a beautiful ice sculpture, now you have a small piece of ice. That’s what domestic violence does. It chips away until the victim is a mere shell of who they used to be. And that’s how people come to us at the shelter. As a person on the inside, their self-esteem is crushed.”
Turning Point, a United Way Funded Partner, receives an average of 50 crisis hot-line calls from Union County every year. Approximately 10 Union County adults and 10 Union County children are housed in its Marion shelter each year, with an average stay of 62 days. 15 additional Union County adults are served annually in the Victims’ Rights Advocacy Program.
“If we had an actual shelter in all six counties we serve, I think our numbers would come up,” Butler said. “There’s an animal shelter in every county, but not a domestic violence shelter. We don’t need another hotline. What we need is money to help victims. And that’s where we fall short.”
That’s where the $1 million United Way fall campaign is working to fill the gap. Turning Point received $25,000 in United Way funding this year and has requested the same amount for 2015. Butler says funding remains one of the shelter’s biggest issues. The other is prevention. She says so much of what they do is reactionary.
“Once we have a change in social norms, then we’ll have a chance,” Butler said. “We are in the schools. We are discussing prevention, teaching kids that you have to be respectful to your partner. Will our awareness from the national media trickle down? Or will it be a ‘flavor of the month’ item and then we’ll all move on to something else?”
United Way works to bring neighbors and resources together to improve lives in Union County. United Way of Union County has raised more than $17 million for local needs since it was established in 1958. More than just a fundraiser, United Way collaborates with local businesses, government, and non-profit organizations to solve pressing social service issues large and small.
For more information, please visit www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org.