October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Thursday, October 22, is “wear purple day.” Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first introduced in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and was specified for October in 1987. The purple ribbon is used to honor domestic violence victims and support growing awareness.
Domestic violence is a pattern of cruel behavior where a person uses different types of abusive ways to control someone. It takes many forms – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, economic and financial. It affects 10 million men, women, and children every year. On an average day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls made to domestic violence hotlines across the nation. As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men face severe domestic violence from an intimate partner, resulting in injury, stress disorders, contracting sexually transmitted diseases and many other devastating results. As few as 34% of victims ever receive medical treatment for their injuries caused by their intimate partner. If there is a gun in the home where domestic violence is taking place, the risk of homicide increases by over 500%.
An abuser can be just about anyone, but is usually a person in close relationship with the abused person. They can come from any background, culture, religion, and economic status and can be your neighbor, relative, teacher, clergy, spouse, parent, or co-worker.
There are some common characteristics among many abusers. They may downplay the abuse or say it doesn’t exist, and the victim may believe them. They may have low self-esteem and may treat their victim like an object, property or sexual object. They may make excuses saying they are under a lot of stress and blame their behavior on drugs or alcohol. They may be charming and nice to others, even the victim. Abusers will use anger, humiliation, jealousy, accusations, blaming, cruelty, physical violence, possessiveness, verbal abuse, or be emotionally unpredictable. They may try to control the victim’s behavior, finances, relationships, or work environment.
When someone is in a domestic violence situation, it is important to seek help if they feel it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, there are many times where a victim will not leave or seek help because they are afraid of the abuser, they have been threatened, their children or pets have been threatened, or they feel they don’t have enough money and will end up homeless. They may not have anyone to turn to that will support their decision. These fears can be compounded by expectations from family, society, and religion. They may be unaware that help is available.
The Domestic Violence and Abuse Center in Grafton serves Cavalier, Pembina and Walsh counties. You can call the main line during regular working hours 701-331-0466, or the 24 hour crisis line after hours and on weekends, 1-866-435-7490. When you call, you will be connected with one of their trained advocates, who will talk with you and help you figure out the services you need which may include a protection order or temporarily moving into their shelter. There is always someone “on-call” during the night and on weekends, so if there is ever an emergency that’s not during business hours, there will always be someone available to assist you. Your call is confidential and calling does not mean you have to take action. The DVAC is there to provide emotional support and guidance; everything you do beyond that is completely your own choice. It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman, or experienced sexual assault or domestic violence yesterday or decades ago, you can always reach out to them for help.
“If you are unsure about calling because you think you are not in an abusive relationship, call anyway,” said DVAC Executive Director Debra Olson. “You may not even realize the abuse that is happening; there are many forms of abuse, not just physical violence.”
All services are free, which include emergency shelter; safety planning; legal advocacy within the criminal justice system; emotional support; walk-in services during business hours by trained staff and volunteers; help in evaluating your relationships; referrals and accompaniment to services such as housing, medical, mental health, financial assistance, child care, skills training, or employment; and assistance with obtaining domestic violence protection orders and sexual assault restraining orders, if needed.
Domestic violence organizations can be found across North Dakota in Bismarck, Bottineau, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Ellendale, Fargo, New Town, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Lisbon, Washburn, Beulah, Minot, Stanley, Valley City, Williston, Wahpeton, Ft. Totten, and the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Their phone numbers can be found at https://www.dvacnd.org/other-nd-shelters.
If you would like to support the DVAC in Grafton that serves Pembina, Walsh, and Cavalier counties, go to their website https://www.dvacnd.org/ and click on the purple Donate button in the bottom right corner, or text “DVAC” to 269-89. During the month of October, anyone who donates using this platform will receive a free mug, travel size hand sanitizer, and be entered to win a 50’ 4K LED Roku Smart TV.
As many as 3 out of 4 Americans know of another person that has been or is being abused by another individual but many times does nothing. If you or someone you know needs help, or simply someone to talk to, contact the DVAC in Grafton or another domestic violence organization in ND. You may also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) and your phone call will be both anonymous and confidential.