Opinion: With domestic violence, it’s up to us to listen | SierraSun.com

Opinion: With domestic violence, it’s up to us to listen

Dawn Harris
Special to the Bonanza

Tahoe SAFE Alliance would like to thank Dr. Andrew Whyman for his article chronicling the issue of domestic violence in our community (published in Bonanza on Jan. 29, 2015).

It is only through awareness, education, and conversation that we can shatter the silence and taboos that surround domestic violence, and create a community that does not tolerate violence in any form.

Last year, Tahoe SAFE Alliance provided direct services to 787 survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence, sexual violence and child abuse in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

Of this, 425 were survivors of violence and abuse who received services such as safe housing, counseling and support, filing Emergency Protective and Temporary Restraining Orders, and assistance with divorce and child custody issues.

Furthermore, we work hard every single day to create a violence free culture by educating school children, local businesses and community members on violence prevention, safety and healthy relationships.

As Dr. Whyman pointed out, domestic violence in our society has remained a serious problem in the United States.

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One in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year.

But more importantly, domestic violence kills: More than three women a day lose their lives at the hand of their abuser.

In fact, Nevada ranks in the top 5 in the nation in domestic violence murders. And, these numbers are low when you consider most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

In addition to the immediate trauma of the abuse inflicted on victims of domestic violence, both physical and emotional, victims are often re- traumatized by a society that all too often blames them for the violence that was inflicted upon.

Victims of domestic violence stay in abusive relationships (and may defend their abuser) for all sorts of reasons: love, fear, embarrassment, children/family and economic isolation, among many others.

It takes profound strength, and often many attempts (on average, eight) for a victim to leave an abusive relationship. These survivors should be praised for their strength, rather than blamed for not leaving.

During the first quarter of the Super Bowl on Sunday, a Public Service Announcement aired — the first Super Bowl ad to call for action to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

It sent a poignant message that although domestic violence can be hard to talk about, it's up to all of us to listen.

As Dr. Whyman so eloquently stated in his article, if you know someone who experiences domestic violence, talk to him or her. Lead them to help. This may mean overcoming your own inhibitions about "not wanting to get involved."

We all need to get involved. For tips to help you speak up about these issues and provide ways you can help loved ones affected by domestic violence and sexual assault visit tahoesafealliance.org.

We operate offices in Incline Village, Kings Beach, and Truckee. For immediate help call our Crisis Line at 1-800-736-1060. Our services are free, non-judgemental, and confidential.

Dawn Harris is Development Manager for Tahoe SAFE Alliance.