"Cut out this article and keep it for reference"
A few years ago before I moved to Brookings, I was working at a church in another state. One day, a woman appeared on our church doorstep. She was not a member of our congregation. In fact, I did not even know her name. All I knew about her was what I saw: a stylishly dressed woman who had a black eye and an upper lip that was bleeding profusely. While it was difficult to understand the words she was speaking, the message she was conveying spoke volumes: this woman was obviously a victim of violence. As it turned out, she was a victim of domestic abuse.
Like so many others, she was also the victim of the conspiracy of silence in which our culture likes to engage. We pretend domestic violence does not happen, at least not in our family or neighborhood. We seldom acknowledge that domestic violence happens across ethnic, social, and economic lines on all levels of society. As such, we pretend that domestic violence does not exist at all. And since it does not exist, we do not talk about it in any way, shape, or form, unless it happens directly to us.
Research suggests that a person is abused on average almost 90 times in some manner before the victim picks up the phone and calls someone for help like the police, a church, or a social service agency of some kind. There are all manner of reasons for this. Victims can feel like the abuse is some how there own fault. Victims can feel like they cannot financially afford to leave their abuser if the abuser is the primarily bread winner in the family, particularly if there are children involved. Sadly, victims can even feel religious guilt about leaving a spouse. Whatever the reason(s), victims stay because the abuser has some form of power and control over the victim.
The good news is that God loves us and does not intend violence for us as a way of life. There is help available to those who are ready to take the step of breaking the cycle of violence. The South Dakota Network Against Violence and Sexual Assault has many resources which can be found online at http://www.sdnafvsa.com. The South Dakota Department of Social Services also has a wealth of resources at http://dss.sd.gov. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233). Many area churches also have ministries and information on this as well.
We are also blessed here in Brookings with a fabulous local Domestic Abuse Shelter, which can be reached at 692-SAFE (7233). For those not in crisis but would still like to help that invaluable community service, the shelter is hosting a benefit bike ride "Cycle to Stop the Cycle" on September 24th, 2011. For more information on that opportunity, call 692-7233 or e-mail cycletostopthecycle[at]brookings.net .
As always, if you are in immediate crisis, simply call 911. South Dakota Criminal Law 25-10-1(1) defines domestic abuse as, "Any physical harm, bodily injury or attempts to cause physical harm or bodily injury, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm or bodily injury between family or household members." The police department is trained and ready to assist you in any way they can, as are any number of area clergy and social workers.
Domestic Violence does occur, but victims have options. They do not have to be silent, and neither do you. With God's help, we can combat this plague that affects far too many people.