Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives cease to exist the day that we become silent about things that matter.” Domestic Violence Awareness Month offers an opportunity for communities across the nation to speak out against an epidemic that threatens the very fabric that unites our communities and families.
According to the National Domestic Violence Coalition, “Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October 1981. The intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. That same year, the first national toll-free hotline was begun. In 1989, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress.”
The National Domestic Violence Coalition reports that in the United States, one in four women and one in seven men will experience violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. A reported 16,800 homicides occur annually, with the North Carolina Center for Domestic Violence reporting 73 known homicides in 2011. Of those 73, 45 children were present during the homicide and 15 children were victims as a result of the domestic violence.
REACH of Macon County, which also serves Jackson County, is a non-profit on the front lines working with men, women, and children who are victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. REACH provides a variety of services including emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, New Choices Job and Life Skills classes, Latino services, support group, rape prevention education, youth advocacy, court advocacy, sexual assault response, community education, elder abuse services, and wrap around support services. In the last year, REACH has served 641 unduplicated victims of domestic violence, with 54 individuals seeking emergency shelter. Emergency shelter victims stayed 1,459 nights annually or 121 nights per month. REACH also assisted in providing 4,377 meals and 4,206 in-person contacts.
“There are days, even weeks, when I go home and I can't help but feel overwhelmed by the work that we do,” said Jennifer Turner-Lynn, Rape Prevention Education Coordinator with REACH. “Dealing with domestic and sexual violence, families, children, and all of the other factors surrounding violence like mental health, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, and trauma can feel hopeless at times. Then, I am reminded of the strength of the human spirit and the perseverance of survivors to overcome these great tragedies. Domestic Violence Awareness month gives me pause to remember those successes and the survivors for whom we work and fight for everyday.”
In order to continue to support REACH and the vital services they provide within our community, drop off boxes have been organized for items needed for shelter victims. Donations could include paper products, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, toiletry items, general household items, new towels, and new sheets (twin or full size). Drop off boxes will be placed at the Amish Deli, Anna Bedell’s, Cajun Connection, Dollar General, Gazebo Café, Kerr Drug, REACH for Bargains, and Smoky Mountain Bicycles. Individuals, civic and faith-based groups are encouraged to participate in supporting your local DV agency.
If you need assistance from REACH, have questions, or would like to volunteer, contact the REACH office at (828)369-5544.