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Domestic violence hurts people in every community

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery or sexual assault of another person. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and emotional abuse.

Domestic violence is an attempt to gain power and control over another person. It affects people in every community. Domestic abuse knows no boundaries. It occurs in families with diverse educational, racial or economic status. It affects people of all ages, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

It can start with name calling, threats, possessiveness or distrust. Abusers often apologize for their actions or they try to convince the person they are abusing that they do these things out of love or care. The violence and control intensifies over time.

Here are a few of the things abusers attempt to do to control their victim:

• They control the money (paychecks, check book, savings).

• Tell the victim how to dress, hairstyles, etc.

• Prevent victim from making their own decisions.

• Threaten to harm victim’s friends, family or pets.

• Pressure victims to use drugs or alcohol.

• Stalk the victim or monitor their victim’ s every move.

• Make the victim feel they can’t do anything right.

• Accuse victim of cheating.

• Look or act in ways that frighten the person they are abusing.

• Intimidate victim with guns, knives or other weapons.

• Pressure victim to have sex when they don’t want to.

• Prevent victim from working or visiting with family or friends.

• Destroy victim’s property.

I was very fortunate to grow up in a family where domestic violence did not occur. I didn’t really understand the dynamics of abuse until I became a volunteer. My eyes were quickly opened as I personally witnessed the effects of abuse.

I clearly remember a cold night in December when I received a call to help a mother and her children who had fled a threatening situation. My hubby and I quickly got in our car and picked them up.

The mother was very worried that their abuser had followed them and she wanted us to drive around to be sure we weren’t being followed. Once my husband was convinced no one was behind us, we took the mom and her frightened little ones to our home.

When we got inside, the little boy, who was about 4 or 5, asked my husband to be sure all the doors and windows were locked. My hubby took him by the hand and together they checked every one. We also closed our drapes and pulled our blinds.

I noticed none of them were wearing coats, even though it was a cold winter night. I realized they must have fled the abusive situation quickly. The little boy was only wearing one shoe. I remember him asking his mom if his puppy would be OK. He told his mother he wanted to stay at our house forever and ever. He sat on the floor and played with a few little cars I gave him. My heart cried.

I had never before witnessed anyone fearing for their own safety. To see little children and their mama so frightened was distressing; it certainly opened my eyes to the terror victims experience. To say it is heart-wrenching is putting it mildly. As safe home providers, we were trained not to become emotionally involved — a rule I found impossible to follow.

How fortunate we are to have Safe Haven, an emergency shelter that provides safe housing for victims. Safe Haven began providing services to victims of domestic violence in 1992. The emergency shelter was opened in February 2002.

Demand for services was very high in 2015. The shelter provided safe housing for 62 women and 64 children with an average stay of 30.6 days. Volunteers answered 2,185 crisis calls and met with 555 victims (397 women, 34 men and 124 children). There were five or more families in shelter 69 percent of the year. Safe Haven provides services throughout the county. Last year, 44 percent of all the victims served were from the city of Shawano.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank these caring Safe Haven board members: Tom Grover (chairman of the board), Jody Johnson (vice-chairman/secretary), Sue True (treasurer), and members Dottie Borowski, Kelly Bueschel, Dorothy Erdmann, Lois Flaig, Leann Gueths, Scott Parson and Kelley Strike.

Thank you, executive director Stacey Cicero, shelter supervisor Sue Dionne, and program services supervisor-counselor Marla Rhoads-Etten and their staff for the programming and services provided.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call the 24 hour crisis line at 715-526-3421 or 888-303-3421 for more information or to speak with an advocate.

All victim services are free and confidential.

Answer to last week’s question: The city clerk-treasurer in 1974 was E.C. Reichel.

This week’s question: Can you name the meat market located at 120 W. Richmond St. in 1974?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.