It will take courage, support, to end domestic violence

It often starts in ways that don’t seem like they are cause for alarm.

It might be questions about where you were, what you were doing and who you were with. It might continue with criticism of you and your abilities, pointing out you’re doing things wrong, assigning blame for things gone wrong. From there, it could grow into threats toward you, your children or friends. And next, there might be a loss of control that leads to anger and a fit of temper, perhaps even punching a wall.

All of these can eventually lead to violence — physical, mental and emotional — in the home. It’s something that happens nationwide and here on Kauai.

The instances of domestic violence are more than you might believe. Consider these figures from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

– On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

– On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

– 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

– 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Domestic violence remains a problem in the Unites States. And as one of the speakers at Wednesday’s candlelight vigil, “Changing Hurt To Hope,” pointed out, violence at home is often something children witness. They grow up believing it’s a normal part of life. It’s not. That’s why it was encouraging to see about 100 people turn out for the vigil at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. The songs, the poem, the testimonies, the candle lighting and the moment of silence were all signs people have been impacted by domestic violence and they want to see it end. Its effects can last a lifetime. It can influence generations. Sadly, innocent children can grow up to become abusers because of what they witnessed and learned. Domestic violence won’t stop until enough people, like those at the vigil, rise up and say no more. It won’t stop until our nation leaves no doubt it is unacceptable.

The YWCA, which presented the vigil, wants victims to know they are not alone. There is help. But it often takes courage to admit there’s trouble at home, and make that cry for help. Few want to share their partner at home is abusive, so it continues.

“It’s not your fault. Admitting the truth about your abusive relationship is an important first step in getting out and ending the cycle of violence,” the YWCA says. “People who understand the unique difficulties that victims of domestic violence face are available to help you. We will help you make a plan to be safe and to weigh your options for violence-free living.”

The YWCA offers counseling, support groups, assistance with protective orders, emergency shelter, safety planing and can help with temporary restraining orders. But none of that will do any good if you don’t call. It takes courage to make that first phone call when you find yourself in a violent relationship — most likely violence you never saw coming when this relationship formed.

The YWCA’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline is (808) 245-6362. Its staff will do a number of things that can make a difference, including conducting an intake assessment to help document the history of violence and abuse in the relationship; providing education and information on available services; accompanying you to the courthouse to file paperwork if needed, or to the police department to arrange to have the paperwork served to the abuser and making arrangements for a family law attorney to provide legal representation.

If you’re afraid to make that call, please remember, you’re not alone.

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