Our Voice: Watch for signs of domestic violence

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Farm Forum

As we near the end of October, most of us know it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

One could hardly miss it with NFL players in pink and all the products being sold in pink. Even the American News front page was pink one day this month.

We love that the marketing campaign for breast cancer has been very successful and has likely saved lives, as well as our community’s commitment to the cause. At the same time, we want to continue to get the message out that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Although neither is desirable, it seems to be more comfortable for someone to step up and say “I have/had breast cancer” than it is for someone to even shyly admit they have been a victim of domestic violence. Yet, the numbers are staggering.

One in every four women and one in every nine men will experience domestic violence in her or his lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted each year. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women. Thirty to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the same household, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Each victim is one too many. Nevertheless, most domestic violence incidents are never reported to the authorities. For some, it is simply too hard to say, “I have been abused.”

We understand why. There are likely feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment fused with confusion and disheartened with illusions of the violence never happening again. And while breast cancer is something one cannot control or “fix” on her or her own, domestic violence is.

It only takes a voice, albeit a very brave voice. One voice to say, “I need help.” One voice to say, “I am brave enough to leave.” One voice to say, “I am a victim of domestic violence.”

Of course, a person giving him or herself this voice is not the end. There have to be others willing to step in and help — people who care enough to ask about the well being of others. People like you. People like us.

We urge you to pay attention to signs of domestic violence, not just this month but always. Signs range from obvious physical bruises to children missing school and adults missing work, increased health complaints and refusing to discuss relationships. Stalking can also indicate domestic abuse, as can a low self-esteem or being extremely apologetic.

Many victims are willing to talk about abuse if they are approached in an understanding, nonconfrontational manner. You can help by offering your ear to their voice and reassuring the person they are not at fault. Only the person in the situation can make the decision to leave it, as it can be dangerous.

It is best to help the victim contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE or our local abuse shelter, Safe Harbor, at 605-226-1212.

— American News editorial board