Domestic violence is not always visible

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of domestic violence? If you are like most, you probably think of black eyes, bruises, and broken bones. However, not all acts of violence “live” on the outside. Many domestic violence victims suffer in silence while being traumatized internally by emotional, psychological, spiritual, verbal and economic abuse.

Domestic violence is the act of one partner using power and control over their domestic partner.

Data provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that 59 percent of adult women in Alaska will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Men too, experience violence from the hands of an intimate partner. One in four men have reported they have been physically abused by a partner. One in 18 men will be severely injured by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Domestic violence does not discriminate.

Anyone can be impacted by violence — those in same-sex relationships, parents, spouses, elderly, former partners, your neighbor, your friends or even your own children.

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical harm. It can also include minimizing, belittling, name calling, isolation and with-holding family funds.

As a society we often ask the question, “Why does he/she stay?” The question we should ask instead is, “Why does one individual cause harm to someone they are supposed to love?” Questioning the victim’s reasoning is putting the responsibility for the abuse on them, referred to as victim blaming, and removes all accountability off the perpetrator.

No one deserves to be abused, regardless of the situation or circumstances.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the staff at South Peninsula Haven House will be providing community education on the barriers that victims face when preparing to flee an unsafe situation. Watch our Facebook page for locations and times.

Some of the questions victims ask themselves when faced with fleeing include: how will I support myself, what will I do with the family pets, where will I live, what will our friends think/say, and what will happen to my children? The concerns victims face are real, and that is where Haven House can help.

Last year Haven House staff answered 1,283 crisis calls, provided 3,270 shelter bed nights, provided child advocacy services for 223 child victims, and through our Transitional Housing program supported 12 families in obtaining a home of their own.

If you, or someone you know is in an unsafe situation or needs safe shelter, we want you to know that Haven House has a 20-bed shelter to assist individuals, and their children, when fleeing unsafe situations. We also provide a 24-hour crisis line, offer help with Transitional Housing, operate Child Advocacy Centers in Homer and Kenai, and can offer support to victims through our Homeless Assistance Program, as well as our Prevention and Empowerment programs.

Our goal is to ensure that everyone has a place to go where they feel safe, where they can sleep and feel safe.

If you, or someone you know needs support, please call our 24/7 emergency crisis line at 907-235-8943.

Ronnie Leach is the executive director of South Peninsula Haven House.