“This is where I’m gonna die and nobody’s gonna know what happened.” This is what one domestic abuse survivor, Kelly, recalls thinking during one incident in which her boyfriend repeatedly kicked her, threatened her and held a gun to her head. Kelly is one of the lucky ones because she lived to talk about her experience. She then freed herself and her children of that abusive relationship with the help of 360 Communities Lewis House.
Unlike Kelly, too many women do not have that chance. So far in 2013, 31 people have been killed in domestic violence incidents Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. In 2012, at least 18 people were killed as a result of domestic violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and 360 Communities is committed to engage the entire community to help us curb domestic abuse in Minnesota. Last year, our violence prevention and intervention services helped more than 2,500 women and children with shelter, counseling, education and outreach. For much of 2013, our Lewis House domestic violence shelters in Eagan and Hastings have been at or above capacity.
In October, we will be joining the MCBW’s Live Violence Free flag-raising campaign. During the first week of October, 360 Communities and other participating organizations around the state will display the Live Violence Free flag in recognition of the women killed in domestic violence incidents in Minnesota. After Oct. 7, every time there is another domestic violence homicide in Minnesota, we will display the flag for one week. When the MCBW releases its annual femicide report Jan. 28, we will raise the flag on that day as well.
This is more than just a way to raise domestic violence awareness. It is a way for the state of Minnesota to unite with one voice to say:
• No more girls becoming one in three women worldwide to experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
• No more boys growing up to perpetuate the cycle of violence they witness, experience and learn in their childhood.
• No more men turning a blind eye to the problem.
A healthy and safe community begins with all of us taking ownership of this issue. It is up to the entire community to project the expectation that all women and children have the basic human right to be safe. It’s about protecting women and children today, but it’s also about breaking the cycle of violence that threatens future generations. If we don’t engage this problem directly, the cost in human lives is only the beginning. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Children who experience childhood trauma, including witnessing incidents of domestic violence, are at a greater risk of having serious adult health problems including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy.” When children experience love, respect and empathy in the home, they are more likely to model that behavior as they grow into adulthood.
Help us promote safe and healthy relationships in our community and in all of our homes. If you would like to get involved, there are a number of ways you can make a difference in the fight against domestic abuse.
• Be alert to signs of domestic violence. If you suspect a friend, family member or neighbor is experiencing abuse, call your local police department.
• Volunteer to be a court advocate helping women navigate the court system and providing them with valuable resources and support.
• Volunteer to read to or play with kids at one of our Lewis House domestic violence shelters.
• Hold a domestic violence awareness campaign at your business or school. Consider joining the MCBW’s Live Violence Free campaign. Visit www.MCBW.org for more information.
• Donate your old cellphones, iPods and other personal electronic devices to 360 Communities. 360 Communities will convert some phones into emergency phones for survivors of domestic violence and recycle the rest for money that will support our Lewis House domestic violence shelters in Eagan and in Hastings. Throughout October, 360 Communities will have collection bins placed throughout the community, including a number of schools in Dakota County.
According to the MCBW, in 2012, more than 63,000 people sought help from domestic violence programs in Minnesota. Domestic violence tears at the very fabric of our communities. As a society we need to unite, and in the loudest voice possible, say no to abuse in all forms. Only then will we have a chance to eradicate the problem. Please stand with 360 Communities to promote safe and healthy homes. This will help us strengthen our communities for years to come.
Sal Mondelli is president and CEO of 360 Communities, a Burnsville-based nonprofit that provides hope and support to people by engaging communities to prevent violence, ensure school success and promote long-term self-sufficiency. For more information go online to 360Communities.org or call 952-985-5300. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.