Will you join us this month in Respecting Survivors? Display your purple awareness ribbons; invite TCWRC to speak to your community or faith group; make a donation to TCWRC’s Heart Guild. Join us in person on Wednesday, October 25 at noon at TCWRC, 1902 2nd Street, for our annual Memorial Walk to Carnahan Park to remember and honor victims of intimate partner violence. Respect Survivors. Let us be a community of respect, support, and healing.
By Emily Fanjoy, Health Programs Coordinator, Tillamook Co. Women’s Resource Center
The Oregon Women’s Foundation 2016 “Count Her In” Report, on the state of women and girls in Oregon, found that over half of the state’s female population has experienced some form of sexual or intimate partner violence in her lifetime. Women are not the only victims as same sex couples experience violence at approximately the same rates as heterosexual couples, and 5 million children witness domestic violence each year. Personal and community health and wellness is negatively impacted by intimate violence. So what can we do?
Knowledge is power, so understanding the scope of the issue is imperative. Most people, including many survivors, identify domestic violence as physical assault, but it is so much more. Intimate partner, domestic, or teen dating violence (IPV) occur when one person in a relationship uses a pattern of methods and tactics to gain and maintain power and control over the other person. It’s a cycle that generally gets worse over time–not a one time incident. People who choose abusive behavior use jealously, isolation, emotional and psychological abuse, coercion, intimidation, and threats often long before physical violence occurs. Leaving an abusive relationship is not always the best, safest or most realistic option for survivors. To address IPV as a community it’s critical that we work from this comprehensive definition of IPV, to shift our focus from “Why don’t they just leave?” to “How can we support them?”
As many social service systems–education, health care to name a few– move to become trauma informed, they are working in a way that acknowledges people from every walk of life have been impacted by many types of trauma. The idea springs from the groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs), that showed 1) how incredibly common traumatic experiences of childhood trauma are–including food insecurity; parents with mental illness; incarcerated parents; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and 2) how these experiences can have a profoundly negative impact on health and wellbeing. This is true for traumatic experiences in childhood as well as traumatic experiences, including and especially IPV, in adulthood. Dr. Vince Felitti, lead co-researcher for the ACEs study, emphasized that the study showed the most detrimental form of trauma is constant and repeated forms of shaming. Intimate partner violence and all of the tactics of gaining and maintaining power and control revolve around one partner shaming and degrading the other. This is why talking openly about IPV is so challenging for survivors. Even though everyone knows survivors of IPV, they may not be aware of that part of their friend or family members’ history. This is why trauma informed care is so important. It doesn’t require that individuals disclose their histories, but makes spaces where they are accepted and supported without judgment.
This year the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence awareness month theme is “Respect Survivors: Community is the foundation of healing”. We all know survivors, whether we know it or not. We love them for their humor, their caring, and the gifts they bring to our lives. We need them in our families, and in our community. And they need us to support them, respect them, and acknowledge them.
Shame means people– people we know and love–suffer in private with their therapists at best, or in silence alone. Community support offers understanding, love, and compassion. Community support is the key to resilience and thriving. In honor of healing in community TCWRC will begin offering A Window Between Worlds therapeutic art group for trauma recovery and resiliency starting this October. Call TCWRC for more information, 503-842-9486.