Time To Wake To Terrible Toll Of Domestic Violence

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A recent editorial cited incorrect statistics on the number of women murdered each year by their partners.

About 1,200 women and about 400 men were murdered in 2001, which is the most current reporting period available, by their intimate partners, not 30,000 as stated in the editorial. Such killings account for about one-third of the murders of women annually and about 4 percent of the murders of men, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics at Department of Justice.

First, she could not believe he would hit her.

Then, she could not believe he would not change.

Finally, she could not believe she had no escape.

So she stayed for four years, as the beatings grew more severe and more frequent, as the control grew more suffocating and frightening, as her contacts grew more tenuous. She lived inside his anger, curled up into the shape of his contempt for her.

We become victims so quietly, so insidiously — stilled by love and hope and fear and the gnawing belief that we must have done something to bring it about. The abusers blend love and anger and fury and remorse so skillfully that the women stand, immobilized — unbelieving, trying everything, hoping for change.

And the rest of us stand silently aside — not wanting to interfere, not understanding the dynamic.

So we do nothing.

Well, most of us do nothing.

Some of us act. Some of us offer an escape.

The dedicated core of volunteers and staffers at the Time Out Shelter have this year offered 10,000 nights of shelter to women and children fleeing violent and abusive relationships. They have provided counseling, emergency shelter, transitional housing, social services and supported a center where trained experts can conduct interviews with abused children in a safe and non-traumatic setting.

They’ve somehow made up for a sharp drop in state funding — more than 15 percent in the past two years, with additional cuts likely as the state budget continues to trash about like a dying mastodon.

Volunteers have stepped forward, trying to compensate for the staff layoffs. Donors have come forward, trying to provide the resources to cope with the rise in domestic violence that accompanies economic hard times. Payson police this year reported a rise in domestic violence reports, almost the only category of crime on the upsurge.

The brave and dedicated people at the shelter hope they can do something about those frightening trends on Thursday, when they’ll hold a vigil and walk for the victims of domestic violence. They’ll gather at the Payson Town Hall at 5:30 p.m., walk along the Beeline at 6 p.m. and then hear a survivor of such intimate violence speak about her experiences.

Alas, such stories have become all too common.

Somewhere between 1 million and 4 million women suffer violence at the hands of a partner or family member, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A shocking one-third of women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.

Such intimate violence accounts for about 20 percent of violent crime against women.

Every year, abusers murder more than 30,000 women.

Moreover, an estimated 500,000 women nationally report being stalked by a former partner, intent on violence.

In about 30 percent of households where a man beats his partner, the children also suffer violence.

Domestic violence costs an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion annually in medical expenses, lost workdays and other costs, according to a study by the American Medical Association.

It’s easy enough to urge women to leave such abusive relationships, but that often entails a terrible risk, especially if a woman has children. About 75 percent of domestic violence calls to police, emergency room admissions and deaths come after a woman has tried to leave, provoking the fury of her abuser. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of rapes involve former boyfriends, husbands and acquaintances.

Perhaps worst of all, intimate violence spawns and reproduces in the dark as we look away. Most people raised in violent homes become loving and nurturing parents — but exposure to violence in the home also remains the single biggest risk factor in later domestic violence.

The people at the Time Out Shelter understand these grim statistics. They live these stories day in and day out. And when they grow weary or discouraged at the depth of the ocean, the unrelenting cuts, the public indifference — another woman with her precious children comes through that door, with no place else to turn.

Like the woman who we started with, who remained trapped in a violent relationship for four years before she found a way to escape.

Time Out offers her a way out.

She wrote later in deep gratitude for her life, having found someone finally willing to get involved, take a risk and offer her more than advice.

She wrote in joy and gratitude of that first night in the shelter, when she felt safe and slept the night through for the first time in three years.

And as she can now sleep, let us now awake.

See you all Thursday, down at Town Hall.

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