Recently there has been increased media attention on the issue of domestic violence. Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice was caught by a security camera knocking his then-fiancé unconscious. Other NFL cases making the news lately include Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson indicted for child abuse and Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy and New York Jets’ Quincy Enunwa arrested for domestic violence.
As the local domestic violence and sexual assault center, Hope House knows all too well that domestic violence happens year round, and it happens in our communities. From October 2013 to September 2014, we provided support and resources during over 3,800 calls to our helpline. Individuals and families stayed in our shelter for 5,332 nights. We provided counseling and advocacy to 1,141 survivors of domestic violence, and just this year, we’ve helped 421 survivors of sexual assault. We know many more survivors are suffering in silence.
The benefit of the NFL cases in the national spotlight is that more people are talking about domestic violence. NFL players themselves are speaking out. Green Bay Packers’ Clay Matthews spoke at a news conference on preventing domestic violence, and Jordy Nelson has been featured in a domestic violence PSA. Pittsburgh Steelers’ William Gay shared his story of his stepdad killing his mom. Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson introduced the “Pass the Peace” campaign to raise funds for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Before the Ravens-Steelers game, CBS Sportscaster James Brown gave a speech on men getting involved with preventing domestic violence.
Others are speaking out on social media. After people questioned why Janay married Ray Rice after the assault, many survivors came forward with their stories on Twitter with #WhyIStayed. Survivors shared the many barriers that kept them in abusive relationships, including lack of finances, fear their kids will get hurt or taken away, lack of support from others, being told it’s a sin to leave, loving the partner and believing they will change, and fear they will get hurt worse or killed.
End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin recently released their 2013 homicide report. They found that 55 people in Wisconsin were killed as a result of domestic violence. Many of these cases were when the victim was leaving or left the relationship. Thus we know that leaving is a dangerous time, which is why safety planning is such a big part of what Hope House offers to survivors.
Another Hope House service is presentations to children and teens. From October 2013 to September 2014, we gave 347 presentations to youth on topics related to healthy and abusive relationships. Since the start of this school year, several students have brought up the Ray Rice case. We need to utilize this teachable moment. We need to role model and educate youth on their rights and responsibilities for respectful, trusting, and supportive relationships.
If you would like resources for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, please check out our new website: www.HopeHouseSCW.org. If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced abuse, please call our 24-hour helpline at 1-800-584-6790.
Jess Kaehny, Community Education Coordinator, Hope House of South Central Wisconsin