October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and one county organization is paying attention.
The Camden County Domestic Violence Center kicked off the month with two workshops on Wednesday, Oct. 11, one in person and one online. It emphasized what domestic violence is, resources and supports available, legal advocacy and the effects that witnessing abuse may have both on the victim and child witnesses.
Attendees also received survivor support, safety planning tips and other resources.
The Camden center’s Outreach Program Coordinator Nailah Levy explained that there is a thin line between domestic violence and intimate partner violence.
“Domestic violence refers to people in the same household,” she said. “It could be mother and child, brother and sister, cousins, it could be roommates. They just have to reside in the same residence.
“Where intimate partner violence separates from domestic partner violence is that it’s someone who they have an intimate relationship with, whether they live with them or not.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, “nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S.”
Levy noted that although many think of physical abuse when domestic violence is mentioned, there are many ways a person can be abused.
” … If you have evidence of this person taking your money or using social media to expose you with pictures or telling people they’re going to do things, or that you’ve done things–those types of things are used to control the individual,” Levy noted.
Domestic violence can be physical, financial – with the perpetrator having complete financial control over the other person – mental, psychological, technological, emotional or verbal. Levy shared that sometimes physical scars and bruises can be seen on victims, but other signs include seeking a victim flinching or jumping when approached. Abusers may constantly monitor their victims.
“It could be constantly, ‘if you don’t do this, I’m going to do that,’ or emotional and verbal abuse, putting them down, talking about their looks or they’re not doing something to that person’s liking,” Levy said. “It’s a constant: You’re trying to figure out, ‘What am I doing wrong if I think I’m doing everything right?’ but the abuser keeps saying, ‘No, you’re doing this wrong, you’re not doing that right.’ Everything is wrong for them.
“You could do everything perfectly right and for the abuser, it’s not. And it may be right, but it may be an opportunity for them to terrorize and abuse you. It’s all about control.”
There are often barriers to help for someone experiencing domestic violence, like the fear that the abuser may also harm children or they could lose a place to live.
“What we always explain – whether it’s our clients or a relative or a friend wanting to get help for their friends – is that we can’t make that decision for that individual,” Levy maintained. “All we can do is give them the knowledge and educate them on what domestic violence is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, and the options they have to move forward and be successful, whether in the relationship or out of the relationship.”
The comestic violence center offers resources that can help with housing support, legal issues and support groups. Its response team is a group of volunteers who can meet victims at hospitals or at the police stations to help share what resources are available and help them find their voice. Victims of domestic violence may also be able to get a restraining order against their abusers.
(For those interested in joining the upcoming 40-hour training in November, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (856) 963-5668 for more information. Shifts are usually two to three times per month in person where needed.)
“When it comes to abusers, they know how to control their anger in certain situations, so they may abuse and terrorize their household, but out in the world, they may be the most charming, kind and sweetest person you ever know,” Levy said. “So a lot of times, people may say, ‘He or she was never this way, I would have never believed it,’ but you don’t know how they are inside.”
Though the center does not yet offer support for abusers, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley has a family violence prevention program geared toward batterers to “help identify, address and correct core issues of their problems, encouraging them to become responsible family members and useful adults by developing skills to eliminate violent behavior patterns and take responsibility for their actions.”
The program is primarily directed to men who have demonstrated a pattern of violence against intimate female partners. (More information can be found at https://www.voadv.org/familyviolenceprevention.)
Every Thursday of the month, the Camden County Domestic Violence Center will be offering support groups. For the first and second Thursday of the month, the groups meet online via Zoom, and in person on the third and last Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. at the center. (Those interested in either events can register by calling (856) 963-5668)
The center will host two more events for October, a Sip and Paint on Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the center in Camden, and its annual fundraiser, Break the Silence for Domestic Violence Awareness, at the city’s Adventure Aquarium on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Tickets for the Break the Silence event are $50 per person; tickets for groups can be purchased at https://njaconline.networkforgood.com/events/61312-2023-ccdvc-break-the-silence.
Those in need of assistance or interested in volunteering with the Domestic Violence Response Team can call (856) 963-5668 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Levy noted that the biggest thing the center needs to know on a call is whether the victims is safe and their immediate need.
The Domestic Violence hotline is (856) 227-1234.
To learn more about domestic violence, visit https://ncadv.org/.