By TEDDYE SNELL
In Cherokee County alone, 1,267 incidents of domestic violence incidents were reported from 2006 to 2010. Perhaps even more distressing, according to LegalMatch.com, is the fact that about 25 percent of the victims never file a report with law enforcement.
October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month, and Help-In-Crisis continues to fight in the war against this societal tragedy.
“This is a very busy month for us,” said HIC Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Guthrie. “We provide services in four counties, and we have something going on at each site throughout October.”
HIC has offices in Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties. The nonprofit organization offers comprehensive services, including a crisis hotline, sexual assault services and prevention activities, court advocacy, a domestic violence shelter, child abuse prevention program and counseling.
Guthrie said cases of reported domestic violence fluctuate annually, but have not run under 200 since 2006. The lowest reported number between 2006 and 2010 was 217 in 2006; the highest was 292, in 2009.
To raise awareness and promote prevention, HIC has adopted the color purple – the nationally recognized hue for domestic violence.
“We encourage everyone to wear purple throughout the month of October,” said Guthrie. “It shows our continuous effort to eliminate violence in our community.”
On Tuesday, HIC staff met with Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols, who signed a proclamation designating October as Domestic Prevention Awareness Month in the city.
The month-long observance evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. According to NCADC’s website, the intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became a special week, when a range of activities were conducted at the local, state and national levels.
In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed, and the same year, the first national toll-free hotline was begun. In 1989, the commemorative legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress.
Guthrie said the Silent Witness Project will visit Tahlequah Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Norris Park from 11 a.m. to early evening. The event may include speakers, which will be announced later.
For those unfamiliar with the project, Silent Witness is a series of life-size, wooden cutouts in the form of silhouettes of women and children who have lost their lives to domestic violence. Each bears the name of a victim, and those who have seen the installation are often moved to tears by its impact.
The initiative began in 1990 in Minnesota, and has grown to include projects in 46 states across the country.
Guthrie said one of the best ways to encourage prevention is to volunteer.
“We always need volunteers,” said Guthrie. “We would love to have those who are interested in working our hotline, as well as regular volunteers for the shelter. Anyone interested in helping out can stop by our office at 205 N. College Ave. and pick up an application. We’re hosting a hotline training session in November, and volunteers who complete that are qualified to become domestic violence advocates.”
Many women have their first encounters with domestic violence in high school or college. Northeastern State University officials take the matter seriously.
“The safety and welfare of our students is our main priority, and with that in mind, we, as a police department take an active part in every step of the process,” said Detective Sgt. Jim Flores of the NSU Campus Police Department. “From the moment an officer arrives on the scene and up until the end of the investigation, we remain in constant contact with the student to ensure the student receives the very best care and service.”
Flores said once NSU police learn a student has become a victim of domestic abuse, officials immediately contact the NSU HawkReach program.
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