"Why stay; why not just leave. Nobody has to put up with abusive and violent behavior being directed at them, especially when they didn't do anything wrong. I've never seen her let anyone else talk to her like that; put her down all the time; push her around; tell her what she can and can't do with her own money. She can't even make a phone call without getting his okay before, and to top it off he checks her phone and computer to see what she does."
"It's just not like her. She would never put up with someone doing this kind of stuff to anybody else, so I don't understand why she doesn't do something about it when it comes to running her life."
"Why doesn't she just leave? This has been happening for so long."
Advocates and community members gather in front of the steps of the Belmont County Courthouse in St. Clairsville at last year’s Domestic Violence Awareness rally.
"She really should have left a long time ago. I just don't understand her."
"I know I would never put up with someone treating me like that!"
"I just don't understand why she doesn't leave him."
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. This month, the issue of domestic violence and domestic abuse is put in front of the general public in a very real way to improve the level of awareness about the problem within our own communities.
Domestic violence and abuse are increasingly found to be passed from one generation of a family to the next, according to experts.
It is a crime that can impact families, households, and dating relationships.
"A lack of public understanding and awareness of the problem of domestic violence and abuse, and an unwillingness to acknowledge the issue and its victims: these are key issues contributing to allow this epidemic to continue to ravage the lives of the millions every day who are touched directly and indirectly by this plague," shared Paula Planey, community education coordinator for the local resource organization known as The Tri-County Help Center.
Planey hopes to educate the general public about what domestic abuse and domestic violence are, and that there is never a time when these actions are considered alright. They also try to reach victims in these situations by helping them understand that they are not the cause of the abuse or the violence.
Abusers commonly tell their victims they are the direct cause of any problem; that it is their own fault they are on the receiving end of the abuse and the violence. If the victims had simply done what they were told the abusers would not have to take such drastic measures.
"If you are already being isolated from your family and friends-your support structure-and are repeatedly being told your actions are the direct cause of the violence and abuse-it doesn't take too long before even the seemingly strongest person will start believing they are completely inferior, incapable and virtually unable to do or get anything right," offered Tri-County's community education coordinator, noting the very real role isolation plays in many such scenarios.
The message, while sounding ridiculous to most people, is something a victim will believe is true. After all, it is coming from someone who says they love and care for that individual.
"I've been doing this work now for more than 30 years and have been asked thousands of times the question: why doesn't she leave, just walk away from the abuse," offered Planey. "But I don't ever remember being asked the question: why does the offender abuse?"
Planey states that one of the biggest mistakes people make is believing that domestic violence and abuse is never seen reaching into affluent homes, families or relationships. "This is simply not true, and never has been," she said.
In some ways the individuals who become victims of domestic abuse and violence who have largely lived a protected, affluent life are ill equipped to come to grips with this reality. They don't want to talk to family or friends because of the stigma society still places on this issue and its victims. So, not only do people who have never had an occasion to ask for any kind of help find their life suddenly turned upside down by someone who they thought would love and care for them, but they have no idea where to turn for any kind of care or support.
The key to eliminating this destruction can be found in efforts to educate the public to what this sort of abuse is, and what the violence connected to it is really saying about the abuser.
"Domestic violence is about control and power. It is about the abuser's need to be in control of the victim, of their life and how they live it. It's about establishing the clear message that they are the person in charge-the one with all the power to make decisions-the only one of the two to exercise total control over everything in the other person's life whether large or small," said Planey.
It is common for abusers to assert complete control over their victim's connections to others by controlling every detail of their finances, socializing, even what kind of work the victim can do, where they work, how they conduct themselves outside the home and when and where they see family and friends.
Finding positive, productive and educational ways to break the often deadly, and certainly destructive, cycle of domestic violence and abuse raging across our region and the nation is a large part of the driving force behind the annual awareness raising campaign.
Tri-County Help Center offers crisis services connections on a 24-7 basis by calling 1-800-695-1639. The phone is always answered by a person, never an answering machine.
The organization's annual march to the courthouse in St. Clairsville from its central office at 104 N. Marietta St., will be held Oct. 19 with the participants gathering at that site with departure for the courthouse set for 6 p.m.
The public is invited to attend and participate in the awareness walk. An open house at the St. Clairsville office will be held immediately following a brief program on the courthouse stairs with keynote speaker, Leslie Vassilaros, director of Harmony House.
The Tri-County Help Center's schedule of special events for the month of October - Domestic Violence Awareness Month - include open house events in all three counties where they have official operations: Belmont (St. Clairsville), Harrison (Cadiz), and Monroe (Woodsfield) Counties. Details are available by contacting Tri-County at 740-695-5441 or at 1-800-695-6747.