Moody: Become aware of domestic violence

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

Hannah Graham didn’t ask for it, and Janay Rice didn’t deserve it. The more than 42 million victims of domestic and intimate partner violence aren’t responsible for the behavior of their abusers, and they aren’t deserving of our criticism about why they stayed, commentary about why they left, or what they were wearing at the time. October marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about intimate partner violence and lend support to those in our community who need it most.

According to recent statistics, one out of every four women and one out of every seven men have experienced intimate partner violence, and it’s the leading cause of injury to women nationally. In an eloquent and heartfelt plea for an increased awareness about partner violence and an increased effort for all of us, and men in particular, to take responsibility for “their thoughts, their words, and their deeds,” CBS Football analyst and NFL Hall of Famer James Brown shockingly noted more than three women per day lose their life at the hands of a partner. That means since February, when Janay Rice was beaten by her then fiancé, more than 600 women have died with little notice from the media.

The stories behind the #WhyILeft and #WhyIStayed media streams have been deeply personal and terribly sad. Alienated, isolated, too invested, too embarrassed, too scared, the reasons have been varied, and all rooted in a feeling of powerlessness and limited self -worth. These stories have shown us that abusive happens to women all across the socio-economic spectrum. It happens right here in Destin, in Okaloosa County, in Walton County. It happens to women you know.

Locally, organizations like Shelter House offers support for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence by providing shelter and intervention, as well as services like emergency housing, legal advice and advocacy, and counseling. Their 24-hour hotline is staffed by highly trained and caring volunteers, working to bring victims to safety when they need it.  In 2013, Shelter House began offering support to victims and survivors of rape, including medical services, legal intervention and counseling.

Shelter House works with women to create and implement a safety plan, noting that the time between deciding to leave an abusive relationship and actually leaving can be the most dangerous. The organization offers free 911 emergency phones for women who need them, helps them set up bank accounts, plans appropriate escape routes, and secures safe housing. The community can support Shelter House’s important work by donating cash, cell phones, non-perishable foods, linens, personal hygiene items, diapers and gift cards at one of the many drop-off locations thoughout the area.

Domestic and intimate partner violence isn’t someone else’s problem It’s our problem, and it’s our responsibility to give voice to those who can’t speak for themselves. It’s our responsibility to create a community where we love and respect are more powerful than shame, and that men and women in abusive relationships know they have places to go and people who will love them.

For more information about Shelter House, visit http://www.shelterhousenwfl.org/. If you feel you are in danger, don’t hesitate to call their 24-hour hotline at 850-863-4777 or 800-44-ABUSE (22873). If you are in immediate danger, call 911. 

Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.