Domestic Violence Advocates Seek Greater Community Action

Sep 26, 2016

Studies have shown one in four American women experiences domestic violence.
Credit McLean County YWCA

"Stand Up With Me" is the theme of a new effort in McLean County to help eradicate domestic violence.

Violence prevention groups are asking members of the community to publicly show their support for domestic violence survivors.

Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Matt Drat of Mid-Central Community Action said many survivors feel a sense of isolation even in their own neighborhoods.

"We as citizens and neighbors of those experiencing domestic violence must act, must hear their call, their plea to stand with them and take up that call to become active allies and advocates with them," Drat said.

 He said community members can show their support by wearing purple on Wednesdays during October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, donating used cell phones to abuse victims so that they can call 911 in an emergency, or by contributing online at the Mid Central Community Action website toward the purchase of toys and supplies for children living in the Neville House domestic violence shelter. 

 MCCA is hoping to raise at least $10,000 through a crowd-sourcing fundraising effort to help adults and children escape their abusers. That effort begins this Wednesday. Drat said financial abuse is a major factor in domestic violence cases.

 "People feel trapped and unable to leave their partnership, their relationship because they are financially unable to do so. Money is controlled by one partner unable to be accessed by the other," Drat said.

The Allstate Foundation is collaborating with MCCA in its  "Purple Purse Challenge" crowd-funding effort. All private funds raised will be used to help survivors locally, Drat said. "As little as $10 will make the difference in the life of a young child," Drat said.

 Senna Adjabeng, head of MCCA's Countering Domestic Violence Program, said one in four women and one is eight men is abused by a domestic partner. She said MCCA's 24-hour hotline averages eight calls a day reporting abuse, and the agency serves about 800 residents -- mostly women and children -- each year.

 "The isolation is not just geographic," Adjabeng said. "It's someone telling you, nobody is going to believe you, nobody is going to like you, nobody is going to support you," she added. "What happens a lot is victim-blaming."

 Because of lack of support,  victims often return to their abusers numerous times before making the final break, Adjabeng said.

 "People need to realize there is no group of people, gender or class or sexual orientation that is immune from domestic abuse," Drat said.

 Adjabeng said domestic violence is costly to the taxpayers in terms of the amount of time it takes police and prosecutors to bring cases against abusers. Domestic violence causes a loss of productivity in businesses when workers are absent due to their injuries. There are associated health care costs as well.

 Drat said MCCA hopes to strengthen ties with police and prosecutors who work on domestic violence cases and bring greater awareness of the problem with multi-cultural groups. MCCA has a bi-lingual counselor to work with the Hispanic community and has begun to reach out to the county's substantial Asian-Indian community, where MCCA says cases have been under-reported.

 MCCA also wants to enlist the help of local clergy.  The group has reached out to Rev. Kelley Becker of First Christian Church and Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe of Moses Montefiore Temple. Both work on faith outreach for  the social justice group, "Not In Our Town." 

 Community members are being asked to donate canned and other non-perishable foods, used cell phones, paper products and gift cards for groceries, gas and other services  to help residents of the Neville House shelter. MCCA will be collecting those items on Friday October 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its offices at 1301 W. Washington Street in Bloomington.

 MCCA will also be holding Domestic Violence Simulation program called "In Her Shoes" on October 26 to help community members better understand the problem. More information about the "Stand Up With Me" efforts is at www.mccainc.org.clarion_rocket/stand-up-with-me-2016.