October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You might see purple ribbons hanging on doors, wrapped around trees, pinned to lapels, or displayed in other ways around town or on social media. The purple ribbons are meant to raise awareness to the problem of domestic violence – to show support for victims and to raise the community’s consciousness for the plight of domestic violence victims.

Domestic violence victims need our support. They need us to not question why she (or he) stays. They need us to be supportive and keep that line of communication open no matter how many times she (or he) returns. They need us to give to domestic violence shelters money, food donations, and donations of everyday personal items like shampoo, feminine products, toilet paper, etc. They need us to be their friend, to offer refuge when needed. Male victims need to know it’s ok to tell people they are a victim.

For victims of domestic violence: if you are in an abusive relationship, GET OUT. I can’t stress enough how important that is.  Leaving is dangerous, but staying is even more dangerous. Develop a safety/escape plan. Talk with a trusted neighbor or friend, develop a signal so that if you need immediate help, you can signal them and they can call police. Get copies of all important papers & prescriptions and give to this trusted friend, or keep in a place you can get to quickly. Pack a bag with clothes for 48 hours and store in a place the spouse can’t find so if you have to leave quickly, you can grab the bag and go. Some victims I’ve worked with found this last advice impossible to follow – the spouse checked the house daily for signs of anything amiss. If possible, stow away cash – $5 to $10 dollars every now and then (maybe get $5 next time you buy groceries using a debit card) so that if you have to leave quickly you can have money for gas and food to flee. This is often also impossible because many abusers closely monitor receipts and bank accounts. Know the number for the local domestic violence shelter if you have no where else to go that will be safe. Look into filing a Protection Order. A shelter can help you with that or you can seek the advice of an attorney. Talk to an attorney about what you need to do to protect you and your children.

I’ve been an advocate for victims of abuse for over 20 years. I know the cycle and understand the dynamics. Knowing all of that – all the promises made about it never happening again, all the love and affection given after a violent episode when he reminds you of his good side – I can unequivocally tell you to get out. Now.

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