A Message from Mary Riedel
The Need for Domestic Violence Awareness is Now
A warm, end-of-summer weekend in August turned deadly in two separate domestic violence murders that shook our community. In Coconut Creek, a mother and her college-student daughter were murdered in their home. Two other people were injured – a police officer responding to the call and a young man visiting his girlfriend. In Pembroke Pines, a three-year-old girl was murdered along with her mother and grandmother by her father who then killed himself. Her twin sister was spared but lost a family.
These tragic and violent acts once again put the issue of domestic violence (DV) on the front page of our newspapers and lead the news on local television stations. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) 2018 recently released report, Broward County saw 15 domestic violence murders, part of the 196 DV murders statewide. There were more than 5,300 DV cases in Broward County last year. These numbers, sadly, are just the tip of a very deadly iceberg that continues to terrorize our children, our families and our community.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). The goal is to raise awareness about the signs of domestic violence and the resources that are available to combat this terrible cycle of partner and family violence. It’s not just today or this month. The work continues each minute of every day because that is when violence is occurring in homes, workplaces, schools – out in the open and also behind closed doors.
Working with many community partners – law enforcement, the courts, human service and health providers, schools, elected officials and public and private funders – Women In Distress of Broward County has its mission to stop abuse for everyone through intervention, education and advocacy.
Women In Distress has been engaged in this work for 45 years. Of the 42 certified domestic violence centers here in the state of Florida, Women In Distress (WID) is now the largest and has among the most comprehensive programs to meet the critical needs of survivors of domestic violence and their children. All services are free and confidential – provided in multiple languages to serve our diverse community.
We are fortunate to have a very strong public policy and advocacy group – the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) – that helps support the work of Women In Distress and other domestic violence centers serving all 67 counties in the state.
Women In Distress will serve more than 4,000 adults and children this year, provide more than 30,000 emergency shelter nights, answer more than 26,000 calls to its 24-Hour Crisis Line and provide thousands of hours of advocacy, therapy and legal guidance on getting injunctions-for-protection (restraining orders). Empowerment programs will help provide a foundation for survivors to successfully return to work or school to get the training they need to move on with their lives free of the abusers, free of violence.
It is only because of our strong partnerships and support across the community that we are able to continue this work. Through domestic violence educational programs in the schools, workplaces and community events, our Education & Prevention team touches more than 20,000 people – many of those children and young teens – to let them know that love should not hurt.
Breaking the cycle of domestic violence begins with greater awareness. Domestic violence crosses all boundaries of culture, age, race, sex, education and socioeconomic status. Ten million women and men are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. One in four women and one in nine men in the US will experience intimate partner violence. Nationwide, domestic violence centers will receive 20,000 calls on a typical day. Fifteen million children are exposed to domestic violence each year and many will be destined to repeat the cycle if there is no early intervention.
We are making progress but the issue continues to grow – stalking, dating violence, repeated and escalating assaults, cybercrimes, bullying, human trafficking, financial, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse – are all part of the problem.
To those who are joining us in the mission, the survivors and their children here at Women In Distress say: “Thank you. You saved our lives.”
To the lives that we were not able to save like those this summer in Coconut Creek and Pembroke Pines, we must pledge to do more.
To those who want to learn more, now is the time. Reach out and learn more at www.womenindistress.org. If you or someone you know needs help, the Crisis Line number is 954-761-1133. The state hotline is 1-800-500-1119.
For a listing of Domestic Violence Awareness Month events, click here.