domestic violence awareness monthAs I write this, we are wrapping up a month of activities commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At DOVE Center, we may be known for saying, “Every month is awareness month,” but October is nationally recognized as such and invites the opportunity to reconnect with our wonderful community members through special events and activities. We are increasingly meeting and becoming connected to people interested in joining hands to contribute to a safer, more compassionate and inclusive culture in our schools and neighborhoods.

Take, for example, our area mayors. DOVE Center staff, trustees, and partner advocates attended four city council meetings in Washington County this month where each mayor read a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in their communities and invited residents to join them in taking a stand against domestic violence. That’s strong leadership — leadership that goes hand in hand with that of the police chiefs in St. George and Washington City. These law enforcement agencies are partnering with DOVE Center to implement the Lethality Assessment Protocol, a coordinated response between law enforcement and victim service providers to identify those at higher risk of intimate partner homicide. The coordinated effort connects high-risk victims to specialized services that increase their safety and reduce the risk of homicide. The protocol has proven to be very effective, and we can’t help but feel hope for similar results in our state where domestic violence homicides account for 42 percent of all homicides.

So far this year, Utah has already exceeded the number of domestic violence related homicides from last year (22 in 2016; 28 in 2017 to date), and the stressful holiday season is still before us. From January through September of this year, advocates with the St. George Victim Services Department assisted 943 victims of domestic violence. That’s an average of almost 3.5 people per day. And that’s just a single agency. Our thanks and respect to the leadership of St. George and Washington police departments for implementing the protocol and partnering with us to reach victims. We look forward to the opportunity to partner with other agencies as time goes by.

Every day, we read and hear news accounts of abuse, manipulation, sexual harassment, and rape. Most recently, we’re hearing and reading account after account of sexual violence in the workplace committed by a well known movie mogul. Each account outlines the element of a power imbalance, and each survivor expresses a feeling of helplessness before, during, and after being assaulted because of it. We are shocked, disturbed, upset, and perhaps even sad hearing so many accounts of harm at the hands of one man. But let’s be honest: This is nothing new. These occurrences of sexual aggression and violence are not new in Hollywood; they’re not new in politics, and they’re certainly not new in the workplace.

The #MeToo phenomenon that has taken off in recent weeks has not only prompted lots of dialogue but also inspired men to get involved. Some are sharing their own experiences of sexual assault to help remove stigma, and others are taking responsibility and speaking up against rape culture. This, too, is leadership, and we hope the momentum of men’s involvement continues even after the news quiets down on the topic. As I said, every month is awareness month, so help us keep these conversations alive. If you’re interested in more information about how to intervene when you witness abuse or how to speak up to help prevent abuse, reach out. We provide awareness and prevention education presentations regularly and welcome the opportunity to talk about these things.

We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge another side of hashtag campaigns like #MeToo. While these ideas are born from good intentions and mostly have really great results, some survivors will choose simply not to disclose or participate. And many are actually re-traumatized by hearing similar experiences recounted by so many others. The trauma of sexual assault impacts its victims greatly, leaving emotional injuries and scars that can’t be rescinded once inflicted. It takes incredible courage for survivors to share personal stories of sexual assault. No matter a survivor’s reaction, it is the right reaction for that individual, and we honor each of you. We are here if you find yourself in need of a little extra support now, as a result of the recent news coverage, or at any other time. Our helpline is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Domestic and sexual violence touches each of us, in every community, whether directly or indirectly. But please remember: DOVE Center can help.

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