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Letter: Community needs to work together to prevent violence

October 4, 2011

In Vinton County it is pretty safe to say that we know, or know of, just about everyone who lives here. What that means is that odds are alarmingly high that you know someone or possibly you are a victim of domestic violence. Why should that matter to you?  Well, considering that domestic violence is learned behavior, and that many of those who grow up in a violent home have a very strong likelihood of becoming violent themselves, it matters greatly. Our children and grandchildren grow up here, date here and often times marry here. Their options for friends, partners and social groups are others who grow up here as well. In the schools bullying is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Many bullies come from violent homes. Not all, but a high majority of them. They are not only taught this, but are filled with a desire to have some sort of control of their lives. They are not allowed any control at home and are being hurt emotionally, physically or both. When they get into school, have friends and socialize, they realize they can finally have some power. And if you think they will give that up easily you are mistaken. It is all they have and usually don’t give it up willingly. They also learn at home that this is what you do to get what you want; they know no other way.

So how our community raises children is very important. If a parent can’t be a voice for a child, the community is then all that is left. A community cannot come together with closed eyes, closed ears and closed mouths. A functional community that thrives must care about each member regardless of social status, religious beliefs, education, upbringing, sexual orientation, habits, finances, criminal record or reputation. This does not mean a person has to be friends and hang out with folks they choose not to. It only means we should care about the well-being of neighbors and watch out for each other and not judge. If you can’t resist judgment, then at least do it less hastily and with some knowledge.

I realize no one can force another to leave a situation. And I do not have the perfect answer to put an end to family violence. What I do know is that many times victims say to me that all they really want is support, and someone to say they believe them and not judge. The strength in just those three things is very powerful to a victim. Within the past two years or so, I have noticed our county slowing coming back together. I see not just some supporting others, but our community supporting others. Coming out in public together, rallying for various causes, supporting others in times of loss and also times of joy. In my mind, I have been witnessing our county coming back to what I remember it being when I was young. And I remember it being a wonderful place to live and grow up in.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month to me isn’t about getting statistics out there for you to read and not understand. It is to foster compassion, education and understanding of what happens in the lives of victims and their families. To plead with our community to get involved and make this wonderful, beautiful place we call home safe and happy for our neighbors and our children. In one way or another, domestic violence affects all of our lives.

One change I would love to see within our county is the end to victim blaming, and the focus be on the crimes committed. We have seen this over the years throughout the world with rape victims as well. How they were dressed, where they were at, did they lead their attacker on, etc. It doesn’t matter — a crime is a crime. Shame should never be a factor in the decision to report abuse of any kind. One should never feel embarrassed or fear that others may look down on them or judge them for being a victim. When a person feels supported, they feel empowered. The victim did not commit the crime, the abuser did. Seems so very simple, but yet it is one of the hardest things to get through to others that it is not the victim that is breaking the law.

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic violence or you would like more information, please feel free to contact me at 740-596-9271 or toll free at 1-866-596-9271. And please help break the silence. You could save a life.

Sincerely and compassionately,

Trisha Sands

Director, Shepherd’s House Inc.

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