As we are approaching yet another October – being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – I have to wonder. What is different? What has changed? Are things better? Worse? Are we making progress in our neighborhoods, our community, our world?
I recall back over my nearly 28 years of working in this field of domestic violence. I was ignorant when I began. I even asked those same questions in my head – “Why would someone stay in this type of relationship? Why don’t they just get out?” I had the “new energy” of wanting and believing that I could fix things – I would do all I could do to make things perfect for that victim – so that when they left shelter – or left our building from a counseling session, they would now understand and move on – knowing that they deserved way more than what they had been settling for in their relationship. It was time to turn a new leaf. Time for change. Before Dove developed and implemented a Code of Ethics Policy, I admit that I was in that “fixing” mode of having the mindset that I wanted to do all I could do to help that client – such as going through all my household things at home and bringing in items that I no longer used or needed, calling the shelter on my off hours multiple times to check and see how my assigned client was doing (as if she couldn’t operate without me being there), etc. Oh how quickly I learned that there was so much more involved for a victim of domestic violence to understand that as much as they want to, they cannot change or fix their abusive partner. Nor could they turn their feelings for their abuser off and on like a faucet. It’s a process. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
I remember wanting to learn everything I could about this thing called domestic violence. I attended as many trainings as I was able. I soaked it up like a sponge. I wanted to be a good listener and good advocate. I wanted to learn how to best provide the most important options with a completely non-judgmental attitude. Another thing I learned very quickly – almost immediately – my problems in my own personal life were nothing. Oh how just coming to work every day, put things into perspective. I realized how very blessed I am.
I recall in the early 90’s, our domestic violence program, law enforcement, and the state’s attorney were not on the same page. There was a lot of work to do. Thankfully, it was about the same time period, that Coordinated Community Response teams began to form. I recall sitting around large conference tables with people like Decatur Police Chief Mark Barthelemy, Sheriff Lee Holsapple, State’s Attorney Larry Fichter, our program director back then, Barb Mills, Fred Spannaus – Dove’s ED at the time, Craig Mandernach and the now late, Larry Troy, who both developed and implemented AIM (Alternative Interventions for Men) our batterer program. Things began to change – laws began to change – the Mandated Arrest Policy was implemented – which was a huge breakthrough – to no longer turn to the victim when arriving at the scene of a domestic incident and asking the victim if they wanted the perpetrator arrested.
Dove’s domestic violence program in Clinton began in 1990 by our own Linda Staff, now retired from Dove, but remains active today in facilitating a weekly Bible study group to our clients. In 2000, we opened offices in Sullivan, Shelbyville and Monticello. Shelby, Moultrie and DeWitt County communities all continue to be very receptive and supportive to each of our programs. Although we only were able to keep our Monticello office open for about a year and a half, I am happy to say in March of this year, we have re-opened an office in Monticello and things are going very well.
Yes – progress has been made but there is still much to be done. Domestic violence is still very alive in our communities. Nearly every day, you can hear on the news or read in the newspaper of another domestic incident. There may still be some of you today who ask that dreaded question “Why don’t they just leave!?” or even worse “they must like it or they would get out!” As I said earlier – it’s a process. Leaving one’s abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim. We talk to clients on a regular basis who tell us one of the very reasons that keeps them with the abuser is fear. Hard to understand? Well….it is basically a way of saying although they are miserable living with their abuser or being with their abuser, at least they know where they are – and they are not walking on eggshells in complete fear of wondering where they are, what they are doing, and what is going to be that next thing that actually sets them off.
So – what are you personally willing to do to help put an end to this crime that is affecting your friends, family members, church family, co-workers, classmates, neighbors? Will you stand by and watch and listen to things happen? If you hear that a child is being affected by a home that is filled with domestic violence, what will be your response? Will you be a good listener, a supporter, one who is a safe person to talk to? Do you know your local domestic violence program’s hotline number? Do you personally support your local domestic violence program – financially or through volunteering? Be a voice – stand up against domestic violence! It’s a crime! You could be saving a person’s life. Get involved. It IS all of our business!!! We can’t do it alone – but we can tackle this together. Refer to our program. Our 24-hour domestic violence hotline is 217.423.2238. Check out our website at www.doveinc.org and help support our mission at Dove.
Teri Ducy, Director
Dove Domestic Violence Program
Next Week, check back for the Upcoming Candlelighting Ceremonies to be hosted in the five counties Dove serves.