October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Thursday, October 19, everyone is encouraged to wear purple to show their support and to increase awareness of domestic violence.
This year’s theme is “Everyone Knows Someone.”
Statistics show that one in four women and one in seven men will become a victim of some sort of domestic violence in their lifetime, shared Jeannie Thompson, director of Programming and Outreach at the Women’s Shelter and Support Center, Rochester, Minn.
The shelter covers a 10-county area in Southeast Minnesota, including Fillmore and Houston counties. The agency provides services to any victim of domestic violence, man or woman.
In 2022, 1,700 individuals received advocate services, like crisis intervention, safety planning, support with the civil and criminal courts like restraining orders, and emergency supplies like food, clothing and personal needs. Also, 768 individuals received community referrals like childcare assistance, legal services, housing assistance and financial resources. Over 5,000 individuals called the crisis hotline for assistance and information. The shelter provided 6,797 nights of shelter to individuals last year.
One night, your spouse is angry that you were running late and brought home takeout food for dinner. Your spouse takes your cell phone and looks through the recent calls and messages, then breaks it. Your spouse says you are no longer allowed to have a cell phone. What do you do, stay or move?
This scenario is from the “Why They Stay” presentation conducted by the Women’s Shelter in Preston, Minn., on October 3. After the facilitator read a scenario, participants were asked what they would do, stay or move. After each scenario is read, it begins to feel more and more real, as if you are a victim of domestic violence.
The women’s shelter provides community education to churches, community groups, or businesses specific to their situation. If you would like the Women’s Shelter to come to your community, contact Thompson at (507) 285-1938.
Thompson is asked every time she gives a presentation, why do victims stay in abusive relationships. “People stay for a million reasons. They stay because they love their partner. They stay because people don’t just walk out of a committed relationship. If people are married, they stay hoping that they will be able to find a resolution or come to a compromise. They are hoping that this is going to be okay,” explained Thompson. “Domestic violence is very manipulative and very alluring when the relationship begins. Someone who is an abuser will present things in a very convincing way, almost as if it is a compliment. For example, say you and someone were going out for coffee. They would say you’re gorgeous and, ‘We had a great time today. I would love to spend more time with you. What are you doing? Let’s get together this weekend.’ If you already had plans this weekend and would say ‘I really enjoyed our time together, but I have plans this weekend; how about next weekend,’ the abuser would move on. That was an attempt to manipulate you and isolate you from family and friends. If you were willing to cancel your plans, they would already know in that moment that you were able to be manipulated.”
The Women’s Shelter and Support Center offers supportive housing, a 24-hour crisis line, community advocacy services, community outreach, a resource center, and support and information groups. All the services provided by the women’s shelter are free.
The 24-hour crisis hotline is staffed by trained advocates who are available to help victims create a safety plan and provide available services and resources. Thompson explained that the most dangerous time is the six weeks before a victim leaves and six weeks after they leave. Victims are encouraged to call (507) 285-1010 or 1 (800) 438-6439 or text (507) 251-8704.
What can family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances do when you know somebody you love is in an abusive relationship? How do you get them out of it? Thompson answered, “Well, you can’t get someone out just like you can’t repair somebody’s broken arm. You can’t repair somebody’s addiction. Right? We can be their friend. They need a friend. They don’t need someone telling them what to do. Right? Because that is what an abusive person does. Domestic violence is about power and control over another person. So, if family and friends say you need to do this and you need to do that, they are taking the same stance. Providing information or support, or giving them a number to a crisis hotline where they could receive services they need is the most supportive thing to do.”
The agency offers support groups for all victims. In addition to a women’s group and a men’s group, they also have a group for family and friends of a loved one who is involved in domestic violence, and they don’t know how to help.
The women’s shelter is one of the only shelters in Minnesota to welcome pets. The agency will pay to bring immunizations up to date and with food and supplies such as pet beds. Thompson explained that they have donors who specifically support the agency’s pet program.
Follow the Women’s Shelter on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for their e-newsletter on the agency’s website, https://www.womens-shelter.org/.