October is recognized as “National Domestic Violence Awareness Month”, and Cathy Van Maanen with the Le Mars officer of the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence says statistics show one in every three to four women will experience some type of domestic violence in her lifetime.
“And when you consider that number — if that were an illness — that would be considered an epidemic,” according to Van Maanen. “Those are huge numbers and so yes, we need to be doing everything we can to create awareness first, and then do the work to bring an end to this kind of abuse.” Van Maanen says domestic violence is a common occurrence in Iowa and it happens to across the spectrum regardless of your income. And victims can be both males and females.
“Domestic violence does happen here. It happens everywhere. It isn’t the size of the city or anything like that. It can happen anywhere and it can happen every day and it happens to people that you know,” Van Maanen says. She says many people are showing support for domestic violence victims by wearing purple colored ties, scarfs, or other purple colored clothing. Businesses have also hung purple ribbons on their doorways.
“Purple is nationally known as the color to represent Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Purple is the sign of courage and we know that survivors certainly have an enormous amount of courage to live with what they are living with and then to find the courage to leave that situation and survive it,” Van Maanen says. A victim of domestic violence will often return to their abuser. Van Maanen says the abuser will use power, control, along with intimidation on the victim, making that victim feel compelled to return. She says abuse is not always the hitting and things that we know are not legal.
“There are many parts to domestic violence that are no illegal — but are very debilitating,” Van Maanen says. ” So, when we understand the emotional, the psychological, the mental abuse, the financial control, using the children as pawns, creating isolation so that the individual doesn’t have a good support system. Those all create those very real barriers to making leaving successful.” She says a person averages leaving five to seven times before they leave for good. Van Maanen says she deals with more than 150 reported cases of domestic violence in Plymouth County each year, and every week on average, two new cases of domestic violence are referred to her agency.
(By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)