Domestic violence takes on many forms, impacts men and women

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Control. Fear. Threats. Physical abuse. These are all components of domestic violence.

In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While physical violence may be one of the first things people think of when talking about domestic abuse, there are other forms of domestic violence, explained Jane Currie, executive director of Women’s Information Service, Inc. (WISE).

“Domestic violence can be financial, emotional — really it’s any kind of controlling behavior,” Currie said. “A partner can be controlling about food, money or even the amount of gas in the car.”

Abusers also may try to be controlling over other relationships, regulating who a partner can stay in contact with, she added.

“It’s about isolation, so they don’t want their girlfriend hanging out with certain friends or her family,” Currie said.

Emotional abuse can be repeated degrading comments, humiliating the other person, blackmail, etc. Financial abuse includes not being allowed to work or have control over money.

Although a victim may recognize they are in an abusive relationship, there are numerous reasons a person may hesitate to leave, Currie said.

“Sometimes they simply think things will get better and they have a very strong emotional attachment to the abuser,” she said. “Others don’t have the self-esteem to leave; they think they can’t make it on their own, either emotionally or financially. They also may be afraid to be alone.”

Currie said circumstances can be further complicated in situations where children are involved.

Money is a main reason people are reluctant to leave, Currie said.

“Financial reasons are huge,” she said. “They don’t have a good enough job to support themselves or feel like they can’t afford to live on their own.”

WISE, a nonprofit agency, works in Mecosta, Osceola and Newaygo counties to provide advocacy and support services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Anyone needing help can contact the WISE Crisis Line 24 hours a day by calling 1(800) 374-WISE.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls on a typical day, approximately 15 calls every minute.

“They can always call if they just want to talk about their situation, maybe talk through and see if they are in a domestic violence relationship,” Currie said.

WISE has a domestic violence response team (DVRT), as well as a sexual assault response team (SART), which works with law enforcement, medical professionals and community partners to respond quickly to situations in which a person has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.

WISE also takes in clients who contact the organization directly for services. Staff at WISE transport clients to and from appointments and court dates, help with housing, assist with obtaining replacement copies of records, such as Social Security cards, and make referrals to other agencies.

“Substance abuse may be an issue for the victim, but they are in a domestic violence situation,” said Teresa Mora, WISE Osceola County Domestic Violence Outreach Coordinator. “Or they may have mental health issue. We provide the help we can, but also coordinate and get them all the help they need from different agencies.”

For clients who need to leave their homes, WISE has a shelter, which can house about 20 people at a time, taking in women and children.

“We work with them to get housing, giving them a safe environment to raise a family,” Currie said.

While the shelter is a temporary stay, Currie said WISE continues to make improvements so the building is a healing center.

Every person has value and deserves to be treated well, Currie said. While it may be difficult to leave, there is hope.

“We tell them they will get through this, but it’s a tough process,” she said. “Sometimes people think they are the only one who has ever felt like they have or gone through such a situation. They think they are the terrible person because they still love the abuser. It’s OK to love someone, but it’s not OK for them to hurt you. We give them the tools to move themselves forward.”

Helping people make it through these difficult situations and ultimately thriving is a motivator for Currie, Mora and the other staff at WISE.

“People will call us just to check in and say how happy they are in a new apartment, their kids are on the honor roll and they blocked their abuser’s number,” Mora said. “They want to report the success. They may have thought they couldn’t be alone, but they realize they are better off without their abuser.”

Anyone looking for more information or seeking services can contact WISE at (231) 796-6600.