October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The issue has been in the national spotlight after a few high-profile cases involving NFL players accused of abuse. In Iowa, officials say the state’s domestic abuse hotline and shelters field more than 70,000 calls a year.
Leah Gilbert is with the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center in Fort Dodge that serves residents in 15 counties in north central and west central Iowa.
“This year we’re just asking for everyone’s help to raise awareness and show support for victims and survivors in Iowa,” Gilbert says.
There are 12 domestic violence shelters in Iowa and Gilbert says her facility in Fort Dodge gets 10 to 15 calls every day.
“We are strictly shelter-based now, so within the month I would say we house between 20 to 25 women, men or children,” Gilbert says.
The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence is asking supporters to put a purple bulb in an outdoor light fixture to show support for the movement. On October 23, Iowans are being invited to make a five-dollar donation to the statewide organization and wear jeans to work on “Jeans Day”. The money will be used to buy clothes for domestic violence shelters.
“Money is a big issue,” Gilbert says. “We all know that funding has been cut in a lot of areas and so donations, volunteering — anything that anyone would want to do — we would greatly appreciate.”
According to the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, weekends are the most common times cases of alleged domestic abuse are reported — and about two-thirds of the perpetrators of domestic violence are under the age of 35. A federal report indicates 70 percent of those accused of domestic abuse were abused as children.
The Iowa Coalition Against Deomstic Violence is holding the eighth annual “It’s About Time” fundraiser tomorrow night in Des Moines. Shelters around the state have a variety of fundraisers scheduled throughout the month, too. In addition to Gilbert’s shelter in Fort Dodge, there are domestic violence shelters in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Ames, Des Moines, Clinton, Waverly, Oskaloosa, Iowa City, Burlington, Muscatine,and Dubuque.
(Additional reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)