BY DEBBIE PAGE
About 50 supporters, decked out in purple and carrying signs during their journey through downtown Statesville, participated in the “In Their Steps” themed walk on Tuesday evening,. The event was sponsored by the Domestic Violence Task Force of Iredell.
In a brief ceremony prior to the walk, Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh read a proclamation passed Monday night that acknowledges domestic violence as an ongoing issue and recommits the city to reducing this problem in the community.
Kutteh said that four women die as a result of domestic violence each day in America, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“The long-term effects of domestic violence are staggering, and exposure puts individuals in danger of long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm.”
“The trauma experienced by individuals related to domestic violence typically causes an adverse ripple effect on the emotional and psychological state of a survivor. Panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety are often ignited by domestic violence and/or other forms of related abuse.”
“Children who experience domestic violence are at a greater risk for failure in school, emotional disorders, and substance use and are statistically more likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence in later life,” the mayor added.
Contrary to common belief that it occurs only in lower-income, minority, or rural communities, domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of who or where they are or what their job is, Kutteh explained.
“Statistics show that one out of every four women are affected by domestic violence. We’ve got 40 women here — that means ten of you on average could be a victim, and I think we take that for granted.”
Statesville Police Chief David Addison reminded the crowd that domestic violence affects both women and men of all socio-economic levels. “All of us have to play our role . . . to reduce this,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it happens in our community — it’s unfortunate that it happens at all.”
District Attorney Sarah Kirkman thanked the task force and the community for its commitment to help law enforcement officers to better investigate domestic violence crimes, prosecute the offenders, and to help connect victims to service providers for support and assistance.
“We must use whatever tools we have to combat domestic violence and make our community safe,” Kirkman said.
Two staff members in the DA’s office focus exclusively on domestic violence incidents — one who reviews evidence to ensure successful prosecution and one to help victims navigate the court system and connect them to resources.
Kirkman also noted a pre-trial program in the district that monitors offenders to ensure they stay away from victims and to alert victims if the offender is close to their safe zone. This program gives victims peace of mind and allows them to feel some degree of control over their safety.
“This year, we wear purple as we ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ — trying as a community to understand the experience of domestic violence while dedicating ourselves to raise awareness and to continue to provide help and support the fight against domestic violence,” concluded Kirkman.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCIDENTS INCREASING
Pam Navey, a member of the task force, is concerned about the uptick in the number of children exposed to domestic violence. “With COVID in the past year and a half or so, the number cases are up,” she said.
Anger and stress during lockdowns, job loss, economic problems, and substance use to “self-medicate” all increase the likelihood of domestic violence, according to Navey. “Some people who have mental health issues manifest in a large way when all these issues happen.”
“We want to bring awareness that there is a community here to help,” she said
In her job as community resource coordinator with the Statesville Police Department, Navey frequently encounters victims of domestic violence, particularly the children. “The children hear, they know it,” she said.
Children may sleep in school because they feel unsafe to sleep at home or they may seem off or dazed, according to Navey. “It can manifest in many ways — withdrawal, acting out, various behaviors.”
The Domestic Violence Task Force is working to reduce the number of incidents that children are exposed to and provide education in the community and more awareness of victim services.
Navey and SPD Community Resource Coordinator Turkessia Brown-Evans are certified victim services practitioners. The Mooresville Police Department and the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office also have specialized units to handle domestic violence cases and support victims.
“Our commitment is to people out there hurting who think there is no one there to support them,” Navey said. “We talk to people in strict confidentiality and connect them to available resources.”
Navey stresses that they do not give legal advice but can connect victims with legal aid.
Fifth Street Ministries Executive Director Michele Knapp said the walk brings awareness to domestic violence and to the services offered by My Sister’s House to victims and their families.
“We are here to serve the need when there’s violence in the home,” she said.
The facility, which serves up to 34 people, has advocates to help victims navigate the court process as well as counseling services and case management.
The Domestic Violence Task Force of Iredell is comprised of a countywide network of over 60 agencies, ranging from mental health agencies, healthcare providers, education and job resources, the District Attorney’s Office, and children’s services.
SIGNS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
Domestic abuse includes physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and psychological attacks to establish control over a partner, according to the Domestic Violence Information and Resource Guide for Iredell County.
In addition to physical assault or unwanted sexual coercion, abusers can also try to exert control over what the victims do or who they see, to the point that they interfere with other relationships or jobs.
They also may steal or destroy belongings, criticize or call the victims names, make them feel afraid or uneasy, threaten to hurt them or others close to them, or deny them basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, and medical assistance.
EFFECT ON CHILDREN
Over 3 million children are exposed to parental violence each year. Children who see abuse are more likely to commit suicide, do poorly in school, commit sexual crimes, or to be physically or psychologically abused by the abuser.
Male children are also 1,000 times more likely to become abusers as adults, emulating the behavior they witnessed as children. Girls who witness abuse often become battered women themselves.
Forty to 60 percent of male abusers of spouses also abuse the children in the home.
DEVELOPING A SAFETY PLAN
♦ Have phone numbers for police or help hotlines.
♦ Tell a trusted friend or neighbor. If children are in the home, teach them to call 911.
♦ Have a code word to alert your children, neighbor, or friend that you need help.
♦ Be aware of possible exits from the home.
♦ Try to remove weapons from the house.
♦ Think about a place you can go if necessary, and pack a “go bag” with essentials, hidden where you can easily get to it or leave it with a friend.
♦ Open a bank account and credit card in your name and try to save some money.
♦ Get a personal cell phone.
♦ Have a plan to get your children and pets out safely – such as using the excuse of walking the pet or going to the grocery store.
♦ After leaving, get a protective order for yourself and your children. Have a copy at all times. Give copies to schools, childcare providers, and your employer.
♦ Change locks, install fire and carbon monoxide protectors, alert neighbors to watch for the abuser, and alert co-workers and show them the abuser’s picture.
♦ Patronize different stores and businesses to avoid meeting the abuser.
♦ Remember that abusers will not willingly give up control of their victims’ lives. When they feel like they are losing control, like when the victim tries to leave, the abuse may get worse. Be careful when choosing to leave and even after establishing another place of residence.
“GO BAG” SUGGESTIONS
In the victim’s “go bag,” experts advise gathering the following items: money, keys to cars and home, clothes, medicine, important papers for you and children (birth certificates, social security cards, school and medical records, driver’s license, car registration, welfare card, passports or green card, lease or rental agreement, mortgage payment book and unpaid bills, insurance papers, protective order, divorce and custody papers), an address book, pictures, jewelry, and sentimental items.
Each child should also have a “go bag” with extra clothing, any medicines, and toys.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To learn more about help available to domestic violence victims, visit https://www.mooresvillenc.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2768/DVTF-of-Iredell-Resource-Guide?bidId=
If a person is in a domestic violence crisis, immediately call 911.
If non-emergency, victims can call Pam Navey at 704-878-3454 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They can also call the My Sister’s House local 24-hour crisis line at 704-872-3403 or the national hotline at 1-800-799-7233.