While in the process of writing today's editorial, this letter arrived. It does an effective job of stating a point we want to make - editor.
This week, our community reportedly was rocked by a needless, senseless domestic violence murder and a family is in mourning. It is an unfortunate but stark reminder that while we have made great progress in the last 30 years, domestic violence still impacts people we love. Fortunately, we have worked together as a community to make resources available to break the cycle.
People caught in the cycle of domestic violence often feel embarrassment or shame and try to keep the abuse a secret, but it's important to reach out. You are not alone one in four women and one in 14 men will experience abuse in their lifetime. If you don't feel comfortable talking to family or friends, call the local crisis line at (800) 466-6228, where a trained advocate is available 24/7.
Advocates offer information and resources to victims so they can make the best decisions for themselves. They can help with filing paperwork for protection orders and applying for victim's assistance, and are available to provide emotional support through court proceedings.
First Step, like many domestic violence agencies, offers emergency shelter for those who need to leave their home. Even if you don't think the violence has gotten "bad enough," have a safety plan. Once violence begins, it's unlikely to stop. A shelter case worker can help assess the danger, identify safe areas of the house with easy escape routes, and plan for how to leave quickly if necessary.
Leaving the abuser is a critical period it's the time when the victim is most at risk for the abuser's retribution. Have a phone with you at all times in case help is needed. First Step can provide a 911 cell phone or Hopeline cell phone free of charge.
Victims are never to blame for the violence against them, but it's important to reach out if you suspect your relationship is becoming violent. Early intervention can help prevent escalation from fighting to violence. Warning signs include possessiveness, fear of your partner, increasing frequency and intensity of fights, and extreme jealousy. First Step offers Passages, a relationship class that works on learning healthy ways to manage conflict.
Finally, if you see something, say something. If you believe a friend or family member is being abused, tell them you're concerned for their safety and want to help. It's important to remember that domestic violence can be complex and multifaceted. Many people are in love with their abusers and may not want to leave the relationship.
Keep lines of communication open without judgment or reproach. Reach out to your local domestic violence shelter, where advocates can talk to you about resources and provide support to you, as well. Offer concern for their safety and a helping hand to aid them in reaching organizations that are ready, willing and able to assist.
For more information about available resources, visit www.firststepweb.org or call (419) 435-7300.
Terri Mercer is the executive director of First Step Family Violence Intervention Center in Fostoria, a United Way funded agency. It serves Seneca, Sandusky, Wood, and Wyandot counties.