October 9, 2006

I had to put in interity this next article, and it should be read by any that are in the DV Feild. She speaks truth! Thank You Deana Mueller for helping us Break the Silence!

Domestic violence affects the whole family
By: Deanna Mueller
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month and as such, is a good time to look at what domestic violence is, how it impacts our community and what is being done to stop it.
Domestic Violence, loosely defined, is violence in the home. It is an attempt to gain or maintain control over another person through the use of violent and coercive behaviors.

It affects as many as 1 in 3 women at some point in their life. Children living in homes where violence is displayed are seriously impacted, even if they are not being physically abused. Nearly 100 percent of abusers experienced some form of family violence as children, and many victims also report having been abused as a child.

As director of Polk County House of Hope, an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Bolivar, I see first-hand what domestic violence does to a family. Many people associate domestic violence and abuse with a physical act committed against a woman, by a man, involving a black eye or a broken bone, but the emotional, financial and social consequences that come as a result of abuse have far-reaching effects on families and communities.

First, the emotional consequences many victims experience range from post-traumatic stress disorder to difficulty developing healthy relationships and trusting people. The financial aspects of abuse can be devastating. The medical, legal and housing costs can go into the thousands of dollars and cause victims to choose between legal representation or a house payment. There are resources available to help victims with legal and medical costs, but those resources are difficult to find and usually not enough to cover all of the expenses.

The social consequences are difficult to measure. Probably the most accurate way to summarize the social consequences of abuse is to say that (as I've already mentioned) nearly 100 percent of abusers report having experienced or witnessed abuse while growing up. This means that the little ones growing up in homes where violence is occurring, their chances of becoming abusers or victims when they are adults increases significantly.

So what is being done to address this problem? It takes cooperation and assistance on all levels to prevent and deter something as big as domestic violence. And many area agencies are working together to do just that. Agencies such as the health department, area schools, Citizens Memorial Hospital, local law enforcement agencies, OACAC and many more provide services that help victims become survivors, through case management, housing resources and referrals, counseling, job skills training and more.

The House of Hope was the result of several caring and dedicated individuals and area agencies coming together to address and solve this problem. Since the shelter opened its doors in 2003, about 100 area women and children have received emergency shelter and ongoing support services. The shelter operates at full capacity almost 100 percent of the time and, unfortunately, turns away an average of five women and seven children per month. Women and children who are turned away are given the option of placement and transportation to another area shelter.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence hotline at (800) 799-7233 (SAFE) or the House of Hope at 298-3439. All calls are confidential, and phones are answered 24 hours per day, seven days per week. To find out how you can get involved with the shelter, call 399-6744.

Deana Mueller is director of Polk County House of Hope and an intern with the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.

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