Desensitization is a catch word these days, often causing eye-rolling and sighing, "Yeah, like that's really an issue." My hope for this month is that we can break through that desensitization about domestic violence.
Picture what you've seen in movies and television. Man grabs woman firmly by the arm or slaps her across the face, threatening, "Don't you do that again." End scene.
The stark reality, however, is that for thousands of people (statistically, more than 3,600 women just in Williamsport) violence is everyday life. In our beautiful community snuggled between picturesque mountains and streams, people are violently abused and scared for their lives and the lives of their children.
An average of five individuals, mostly women, but some men, seek the help of a legal advocate through the YWCA every day. Nearly every one of these people is in a state of crisis. They come in feeling helpless and hopeless. Almost everyone says, "I never thought this could happen to me."
"This" means: Strangulation. Dislocation of joints. Being beaten so hard the abuser breaks their own arm. Hair ripped out of the scalp. Being held at knife point and gun point. Rape. Being tracked by internet and cell phone usage and tracking devices placed on vehicles. Women protecting children with their own body while they are punched and hit with guns and bats. Biting, punching and being thrown across the room.
The level of violence our legal advocates hear described has markedly increased over the past year. There are more and more abusers strangling their victims, waving guns around, firing guns near them, pointing their fingers like a gun and whispering "click."
Maybe one of the reasons why violence is increasing is because the number of attackers who are drunk or using drugs has increased, according to victims seeking the YWCA's services.
Coincidentally, we've seen more senior citizens seeking protection from their adult children who are threatening their lives.
Less extreme types of violence are legitimate and terrifying. A slap across the face or shove into a wall, throwing and breaking items, controlling money and contact with friends and family and insults all are abuse. These are many of the reasons an increasing number of high school students are seeking Protection From Abuse orders.
Domestic violence is not just a female problem. Men are abused and threatened by women in small and large ways.
National statistics cite between 15 and 40 percent of domestic violence victims are men. While fewer male victims seek help through the YWCA, we encourage anyone who needs our help to reach out to us. We will help.
"People can't understand how these victims feel if they've never been through it. You can't gauge their fear," a legal advocate recently told me. Most victims never forget how their heart raced during the attacks or the sound of breaking glass after something was thrown at their head. "That fear can last a lifetime."
If you are in crisis, call the Wise Options program at any time at 323-8167. If you want to help us end this epidemic, call 322-4637 today.