We are into a very family-oriented holiday season with Thanksgiving just past and Christmas just four weeks away. Yet for many facing domestic violence, the joy is overshadowed by extreme stress, says Vicki Meilach, community outreach coordinator of South Suburban Family Shelter (SSFS).
Meilach offers these statistics:
- One in four women in the United States has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
- An estimated 37 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, she explained. The obligations of the holiday season may likely heighten the stressors. The holidays bring the promise of celebrations, parties and time spent with family and friends. These special times should be happily anticipated, yet celebrations increase stress levels by taxing people’s time, money and patience, Meilach noted.
South Suburban Family Shelter ( SSFS) has been working tirelessly for over 35 years to provide comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence and their families.
Meilach said these services include: a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, counseling for adult victims and their children, court advocacy, medical advocacy; abuser intervention program, prevention program, Safe from the Start program and professional trainings. All victim services are provided free of charge.
“Domestic violence affects all of us— every family, every workplace, every community,” Meilach stressed. “Each one of us can, and should, play a role in ending this abuse.”
Meilach offers several suggestions for assistance:
- 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 and discreetly share SSFS’s 24-hour hotline with them: 708-335-3028. The same line can provide a 24-hour bilingual hotline. Let them know there are many services available to help them.
- Organize a collection drive—there are a number of things clients need.
- Distribute/ display brochures and posters anywhere in your community—in your place of work, where you worship, where you shop.
- Organize/coordinate an informational meeting/training to learn more about domestic violence dynamics and the services available to victims and their families.
“If you know someone, or 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,” Meilach urges. “Make them aware that they are not alone, that there is help for them.”
South Suburban Family Shelter’s website is www.ssfs1.org or call the SSFS office at 708-794-2140.