Joan Renshaw photo

Joan Renshaw, YWCA advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, at her 6th Street office in Kamiah.

Each year, during the month of October, the YWCA participates in a nationwide Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign. As advocates, we go out into our communities and hang purple ribbons, talk to community members, place posters and information about the services that are available and encourage everyone in the community to get informed and have a greater awareness about domestic violence. This year our platform is “Every 1 Knows Some 1”. With one in four women and one in seven men experiencing domestic violence, everyone knows someone who has been impacted.

What is domestic violence? Many believe that domestic violence is a black eye or physical injury. But not all domestic violence involves physical violence. Just because you are not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Domestic abuse takes many forms, including psychological, emotional and sexual abuse. In fact, these types of domestic abuse can be even more harmful because they are often overlooked, even by the person being abused.

Many community members live in fear of their partner, avoid speaking their minds in fear of angering their partner and believe they deserve to be hurt or mistreated. Emotional and psychological abuse is a way to chip away at their feelings of self-worth and independence. This type of abuse can make them feel there is no way out of the relationship and without their abusive partner they have nothing.

Some may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, but the scars of emotional abuse are very real and, over time, run deep. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name calling, blaming and shaming. Isolation, intimidation and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Most often the abuser will throw in threats of physical violence, which eventually worsen over time and escalates into physical battery.

An abuser’s goal is to control all aspects of their partner’s life and they frequently use money to do so. Most people who are experiencing economic or financial abuse in a relationship must account for every penny they spend and often are denied basic necessities, such as food, clothing and medications. Some are often prevented from working or choosing their own career, keeping them isolated and financially dependent on the abuser.

All community members need to be more vigilant with family, friends and neighbors. It is easy for those who have never endured domestic violence to pass by and not acknowledge there may be a problem, or, say, “Well if it’s that bad why does she stay.” Or maybe you don’t know what to say?

When trying to talk to someone whom you are worried about, don’t be afraid to let them know your concerns. Tell them that you can see what is happening, that you want to help, and they are not alone. Encourage them to express their feelings of hurt, anger or humiliation. Be sure to remind them they are not responsible for the abuse. They may find it difficult to talk about it with you, but give them time and be patient. Let them know you care about them and it’s not their fault, but most importantly, listen. In a study there were five things survivors told us that were helpful for them to hear, “I’m afraid for your safety”, “I’m afraid for the safety of your children”, “It will only get worse”, “I’m here for you when you are ready or when you are able to leave”, and “You deserve better.”

Why do they stay? Many people who are being abused believe they have nowhere to go. They believe they will lose custody of their children, will not be able to afford food or have no transportation. They may believe that if they try to leave and get caught, the abuse will be much worse. There are many reasons they choose to stay, but many of those who fear leaving may only need to know that one person cares enough to help them. This one, kind person may save their life, yes, we have lost lives in our community due to domestic violence.

Knowing the resources available in the community will be extremely helpful when trying to help someone. Let them know that advocates are in your local community and are available to support victims and survivors of domestic violence. An advocate can assist with accessing resources and information to help anyone experiencing violence and abuse. Local advocates are available in Grangeville, Idaho County, Kamiah, Lewis County, and Orofino, Clearwater County. All services provided are free and confidential. Advocates can listen and validate experiences and help plan for future safety at home, or work, at school and in the community. Advocates can explain the legal system from law enforcement’s role to the court process. Advocates provide court support and attend court sessions. As advocates, we encourage family and friends to call us; it is confidential, and we can give you some additional support to start your communication with someone in need.

Please, feel free to contact us for more information on services provided by the YWCA, 1-800-669-3176 24-hour helpline, or 208-935-0044. We care and are here to help.