Domestic Violence Awareness month

D/SAOC events raise awareness, funds

Since the beginning of 1995, 319 people have been killed in Iowa as a result of domestic violence. Nine more have been killed since the last Attorney General report in April this year.

“It’s happening more than people think,” said Marie Harvey, a homicide and violent crime specialist for the Domestic / Sexual Assault Outreach Center in Fort Dodge. “These things are really happening.”

To give them a proper moment, D/SAOC will be holding events throughout October, designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

A candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 400 S. 13th St., will celebrate the lives of those claimed by domestic violence in Iowa. The event will feature the stories of local women killed through domestic violence. Soloist Jennifer Brown will perform and domestic violence survivor Samantha McCollough will share her story.

A fundraiser at Pizza Ranch, 3311 Fifth Ave. S. will donate a portion of the customer’s bill to D/SAOC. The organization will also be fundraising at businesses with “jeans day” for employees, who can wear jeans with a donation.

In addition to awareness, the organization aims to bolster its funding in October.

“Funding is always an issue since we’re primarily grant funded,” said Harvey. “Times are getting tougher with that. Fundraising is always key for us to be able to provide free and confidential services.”

D/SAOC provides shelter for domestic and sexual assault victims in 20 counties, including Webster County. Victims can stay there for free, find counseling and find help to get back on their feet.

The shelter has served 360 men, women and children with 7,380 bed nights over the last fiscal year. A parallel program for victims affected by homicide and other violent crimes has served 267 clients.

Since January, the D/SAOC shelter has provided 277 victims with shelter for nearly 6,000 bed nights.

“A lot of times people think of domestic violence as seeing somebody all black and blue, that sort of thing,” said Harvey.

But often, domestic violence starts with emotional manipulation, mental abuse and name calling before it progresses to physical assault.

Abusers often start to isolate victims from friends and coworkers in an attempt to control their social lives and increase power over them.

“There are some relationships where there’s mental and emotional abuse, but it doesn’t become physical,” Harvey said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not as bad.”

Signs to watch out for in victims include changes in socialization patterns, marked isolation or spending less time with others. Calling in sick to work more often or suddenly quitting a job can also be signs.

As isolation increases, victims have less of an opportunity to confide in others.

Harvey says that those concerned should gently try to let the victim understand their concerns, even though they may not always be receptive to help.

Simply listen to victims, believe them and support them, she said.