At the River City Domestic Violence Center, it is our mission to provide a safe haven to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
So far in 2017, the River City Domestic Violence Center, a United Way Partner Agency, has provided a safe haven for 28 adults and 25 children. Every day at River City Domestic Violence Center is about reaching out to victims of domestic violence and taking strides to make homes in our community safer; as a community we all play a role in this critical endeavor.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Have you ever considered how you might respond if you witnessed an act of domestic violence upon a stranger or if someone you loved was being abused?
At some point in our lives, we have all been in that uncertain position where we see or hear something scary —our gut tells us it’s not right and something bad is happening. As humans, often, in these situations it’s easier to walk away, not ask questions, and not get involved in something that is “none of our business.” But isn’t it “our business” to take care of others in a day, to be a voice for those who do not have a voice, to reach out a warm embrace in another’s darkest hour… aren’t these actions necessary to maintain good and hope in all of our lives.
Every day, I encounter a new victim of domestic violence in our community. Every day, I hear stories of heart ache and pain… brutal assaults of the heart, mind and body. Buried in all these stories is loneliness — a victim who feels she/he has been abandoned by those she/he loves and abandoned by the world because she/he “allows” this cycle of abuse to continue to occur (in the eyes of others). As a society, we find ourselves abandoning things we cannot always understand.
There are many factors why we don’t get involved when we see someone, anyone, struggling with domestic violence — maybe we just assume someone else will help, we don’t know what to do or say, we are fearful there may be consequences. We weigh out every possible question of what may happen if we get involved. A more important question is “what may happen if we don’t get involved?” By getting involved you may be saving a precious life.
Sometimes, it is not only the victims themselves seeking support and assistance. Many times, we receive crisis calls from neighbors, friends or family members of victims asking about services they can provide to their friends or family.
One day an advocate took a crisis call from a previous client who was calling, very concerned, about her neighbor. The previous client also contacted law enforcement, who also contacted the center about this individual and her family. This woman and her family were in desperate need of getting out of a dangerous situation of domestic violence. The advocates were able to set up a meeting with this woman to provide a safe, comfortable place to call home. Her family moved into the shelter that afternoon. While staying in the shelter, you could see that this young lady was blossoming and coming back to life. She was vibrant; she had her life back. She was working full time, being a single mother and making huge progress. She met with an advocate daily and set goals for her success. She was able to get into a place of her own; a safe place she could call home with her sweet family. The advocates continue to check in with her frequently to ensure that she is continued to be supported on her new journey of independence.
Like the courageous individual in this story, we, at River City, encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, be bold, be safe … but reach out to those in need. You don’t have to be an employee of our agency or have any special training to reach out to a victim of abuse. You simply have to be willing. Your one interaction with a complete stranger or someone you love could change their whole perspective. You may be saving a life...giving hope. We have a very strong philosophy within the walls of our agency, that being this: “Be the change you want to see in the world” — Mother Teresa. Help us let victims of domestic violence know they are not alone.
How can you help:
• Know the cycle of Domestic Violence for more information visit yanktondomesticviolencecenter.com
• Approach the other person at a time and place that is safe and confidential.
• Start by expressing concern (i.e., “I am concerned someone may be hurting you, and I am worried about your safety.”)
• Take the time to listen, and believe what the individual says.
• Communicate that you care about their safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt and that the abuse is not their fault.
• Tell them they are not crazy. A person who has been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused and scared. Let them know that these are normal feelings.
• Tell them good things about themselves. Let them know you think they are smart, strong and brave. Their abuser may be tearing down their self-esteem.
• Respect the victim’s choices.
• Encourage them to build a wide support system. Inform them of River City Domestic Violence Center’s Support Group.
• Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want. Go at the victim’s pace, not yours.
• Connect them to domestic violence resources. River City Domestic Violence Center has a 24 hour Crisis Line 605.665.4811
• Consider calling River City Domestic Violence Center yourself — not on behalf of your friend, but to learn more about the kinds of help available, to ask questions specific to your situation, and to learn how you can be an effective and supportive ally.
• If you see or hear an imminent threat of danger, call 911.