For many of us, the winter holidays bring joy, excitement, and special time with family members. But for many others, it is a time of anxiety, stress, fear. Consider these sobering statistics:
One in four women in the United States has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Thirty-seven percent of women who sought treatment in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.
A woman who leaves her abusive partner has a 50 percent chance of seeing her standard of living drop below the poverty line.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rape combined.
External stressors often increase the likelihood and severity of abuse.
When we consider the cycle of violence — starting with the tension-building stage, leading to a violent incident, and then moving to a false honeymoon stage — the obligations of the holiday season run the risk of heightening the stressors. The holidays bring the promise of celebrations, parties and time spent with family and friends, which should be a time to happily anticipate; however, such celebrations increase stress levels by taxing people’s time, money and patience.
South Suburban Family Shelter has been working tirelessly for more than 34 years to provide comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence and their families.
These services include a 24-Hour Hotline, emergency shelter, counseling for adult victims and their children, court advocacy, medical advocacy, abuser intervention program, prevention programs, Safe from the Start and professional training programs.
All victim services are provided free of charge. There are many agencies in the Chicago area that provide similar services to victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence affects all of us — every family, every workplace, every community. Each one of us can, and should, play a role in ending this abuse.
There are a number of ways you can help, including
- Pay attention to warning signs of domestic violence and let loved ones, friends and co-workers who you suspect may be unsafe know that they deserve to be safe. Discreetly share SSFS’s 24-hour bilingual hotline with them — 708-335-3028 — and let them know there are many services available to help them.
- Organize a collection drive — there are a number of things needed for clients.
- Distribute/display brochures and posters in your place of work, where you worship, where you shop, anywhere in your community.
- Organize/coordinate an informational meeting/training to learn more about domestic violence dynamics and the services available to victims and their families.
If you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, be a resource for them. Don’t be afraid to let the victim know you are concerned about them, that they are not alone and that there is help for them.
I encourage you to visit the South Suburban Family Shelter website at www.ssfs1.org, or call our office at 708-794-2140 to learn more.
The more we talk and educate about domestic violence, the more we can help to prevent it.
Vicki Meilach, ICDVP, is the community outreach coordinator for South Suburban Family Shelter.