“Peace, be still”

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4: 39

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During the entire month of October, individuals and organizations seek to highlight the issue of domestic violence, its pervasiveness, and its devastating effects on women, men, children, and families across the nation and world. Domestic violence causes innocent women and children to face repeated violence in their homes, a place they should be safe. An incident of domestic violence can be terrifying for victims to experience. Victims can be immobilized by fear as they seek a way of escape from the “storm” that is raging before them. Just as the disciples in Mark 4 were tossed during the storm, and wondered if God cared whether they drowned, victims of domestic violence may question whether God cares about what is happening to them. The answer is “yes.” God cares about victims of domestic violence. Acts of domestic violence are against everything God represents, most importantly, his goodness and love. His commandment is to “love one another, as I have loved you, so you must also love one another.” (John 13:34)

As a former legal advocate, one of my purposes in life is speaking up for domestic violence victims and educating/informing the public about domestic violence and the harm it does to our communities. It is all of our business to protect women and children, and to work towards ending domestic violence. Abusive relationships are painful, chaotic, and destructive. Hope and healing lies in the assistance and resources provided by many local and national agencies, including Northwest Family Life, where I recently joined the staff as a part-time Community Engagement Coordinator. Northwest Family Life is one local agency providing our communities with domestic violence resources such as safe shelter (Penny’s Place), advocacy, support groups, counseling, education, intervention, prevention, and training. When these resources are combined with compassion, warmth and understanding, survivors have an increased chance at healing, restoration, renewal, and peace.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pattern of behaviors used to exert power and control over another in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial (economic abuse). Verbal abuse can cause irreparable harm to a victim’s self-esteem, especially if she is regularly called names like “stupid” and “bitch”. Physical violence can begin with a slap in the face, grabbing of the arms, or a push. The violence can escalate to punches, kicks, strangulation, and ultimately murder. It is important to state domestic violence is a crime. The list of crimes associated with domestic violence include assault, threats/intimidation, harassment, murder, property damage, telephone harassment, stalking, cyberstalking, unlawful imprisonment, protection order violations, and interfering with reporting domestic violence (simply put, making the phone unavailable to a victim).

According to statistics, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience intimate partner physical violence in their lifetime, affecting more than 12 million people each year. Additionally, 1 in 10 teenagers will be harmed in an abusive relationship. Black women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black women who are marginalized are at a tremendous risk for victimization by an intimate partner (Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community). According to Northwest Family Life, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide on a typical day. Calls to Northwest Family Life increased by 40 percent during the pandemic. These calls included requests for support, resources, housing, perpetrator treatment, and counseling. One statistic of grave concern is that children who witness domestic violence are 10 times more likely to be involved in violent intimate relationships, either as perpetrators or victims. These statistics emphasize the need for society to increase efforts to end domestic violence. Ending the silence around domestic violence, and encouraging more open discussions on the topic is a way we can all take small steps to help save lives.

Warning signs that a relationship may be abusive or unsafe:

Your partner hits or assaults you.

You are afraid of your partner.

Your partner blames you for everything wrong about your relationship.

Your partner is verbally or emotionally abusive.

You are constantly being put down and called names.

Your partner is controlling,

Your partner is extremely jealous.

Your partner takes your phone and checks your messages.

Your partner accuses you of being unfaithful.

Your partner threatens you or coerces you to do things you don’t want to (such as having sex).

Your partner threatens to harm your children or other family members.

Your partner does not allow you access to finances or bank accounts.

Your partner takes your money, keys or car.

You are isolated from your friends and family.

This list of abusive and controlling behaviors is not exhaustive, however, if you are experiencing any of the behaviors listed, this may indicate you are in an abusive relationship. Ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence. There is help available. You deserve peace, safety, and a violence-free life.

How can you help a friend or loved one you suspect is being abused?

Be non-judgmental and compassionate, and listen to their story. Don’t tell them what you would do. Listen.

Ask them what you can do to help. Maybe they need money or a ride to safety.

It is okay to say “I am afraid for you” or “I am concerned for your safety.”

Find out if weapons are accessible to the abusive partner. Weapons add another level of danger and increase the urgency to plan for safety.

If you witness someone being harmed or abused, call 911. Do not put yourself at risk of being harmed.

Refer friends or loved ones to domestic violence agencies providing advocacy, counseling, resources, and shelter.

Suggest they make a safety plan. Click this link https://ncadv.org/personalized-safety-plan

**Important: A victim is at risk of increased danger or even death when she is leaving an abusive relationship.

We cannot end domestic violence without a coordinated worldwide effort of individuals, agencies, churches and other houses of faith, that are dedicated to ending the epidemic of domestic violence. We must continue to promote awareness, education, prevention and intervention. We CAN make a difference in the many lives of individuals who need support and assistance in escaping abuse. It is my belief this issue is at the center of God’s heart, He speaks to the storms that arise from the heartache of domestic violence, and says “Peace, be still.” It is our combined efforts that help provide the calm after the storm.

Here is a short list of resources for domestic violence survivors. Please consider donating to these agencies during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It can be your step towards helping end domestic violence. Thank you.

Atlantic Street Center https://atlanticstreetcenter.org

New Beginnings https://newbegin.org/

DAWN https://www.dawnrising.org/

Northwest Family Life https://northwestfamilylife.org/

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence https://wscadv.org

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence https://ncadv.org/

YWCA Seattle/King County https://ywcaworks.org

Seattle City Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Unit

https://www.seattle.gov/cityattorney/crime-victim-assistance/domestic-violence-help

Project Be Free https://project-be-free.com

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