October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Perhaps one of the most heinous life’s potential crises is finding oneself living with an abuser in a relationship that is supposed to be about love. Maybe it’s physical abuse, maybe verbal, but it never stops and with time might get worse. Broken bones, black eyes, dislocated shoulders, the list of possible injuries is overwhelming, heart-wrenching and infuriating.
At a time when the nation is focused on victims of sexual assault, it is important to remember that the things that happen behind closed doors to families can be horrific and sometimes deadly. The victims often suffer in silence, many for years and some until death. We call it domestic violence, but those words can’t capture the pain, the danger and the daunting despair. It is something that has plagued our nation for decades.
Being arrested for domestic violence in Colorado is more common than many think because we have some of the nation’s more stringent domestic violence laws. Intimidation, coercion, control, punishment or revenge all are legally domestic violence in our state. But many cases go unreported and thus unpunished.
TESSA of Colorado Springs works to provide shelter and safety for victims of domestic violence. At the nonprofit’s annual event on Sept. 15, it reported that Colorado Springs police respond to 35 domestic violence calls every day, which it said might reflect only 25 percent of abuse cases in the city.
In an emotional trial this year The Gazette reported that a couple’s children took the stand and described a night of terror in which their mother was beaten, held at gunpoint and executed in their home in Widefield. Witnesses said the woman had been abused by her husband for years but kept it secret, hoping for a turnaround in their marriage.
The El Paso County Coroner’s Office reported eight domestic violence homicides in 2017. Police reported nine, more than any other year going back to 2007. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office reports that seven of the 38 homicides it investigated since 2013 has been domestic violence related, about 18 percent.
The statistics cannot be ignored. We have a problem right here and right now.
The Gazette will feature a multipart series this month in which victims will tell their stories of abuse and answer the insensitive and misplaced question “why did they stay?” The answers vary from finances, to survival, to fear, and a combination of those and other factors. Survivors say leaving is easy to wish for and say, yet seemingly impossible to carry out for those who do not or cannot find the right kind of help.
The series will interview advocates and experts about what they’re doing to curb the violence and we’ll explore treatment — what it looks like and what it means.
Meanwhile, awareness is key. It is essential that our community learn to recognize the signs, support the victims/survivors and understand the severity of the problem.
The Gazette Editorial Board