Opinion Columns & Blogs

Domestic violence a ‘secret’ close to home

Karen Schmidt, executive director of Wichita Women’s Initiative Network.
Karen Schmidt, executive director of Wichita Women’s Initiative Network.

Chances are, someone close to you has a secret: She — or sometimes he — may be suffering physical or emotional abuse at the hands of their intimate partner.

About one third of all women – and one fourth of all men – have been victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives.

Domestic abuse is more than simply hitting and yelling. It’s a broad pattern of behavior by one intimate partner against another designed to control the other person through threats, violence, intimidation, humiliation and financial control.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I’d like to share some facts about this all-too-common problem.

Domestic abuse affects people of all ages, races, income and educational levels. And it happens right here in our community.

According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, a domestic violence incident occurs in our state every 23 minutes, and a domestic violence-related murder occurs every 12 days. Nationwide, about half of domestic violence victims are physically injured by their abusers, costing more than $4 billion each year in direct health care costs.

Domestic violence also affects the children of victims, potentially causing them to be more likely to enter into abusive relationships as adults.

Sadly, many women remain with their abusers for years, because they lack the education, job skills, financial resources and self-confidence to escape. They feel trapped.

And without help, they are.

The Wichita Women’s Initiative Network was founded 20 years ago to offer a hand up to women who have taken the first step toward independence – to leave their abusers.

Once they have found a safe place to live, we provide them with group and individual counseling to heal from the emotional trauma of abuse, training to help prepare for independent living and successful parenting, and work skills and job experience to help them find gainful employment.

Our goal is to help them become the strong, confident women they were born to be, and to teach them to avoid abusive relationships, now and in the future.

If you suspect someone may be a victim of abuse, here’s how you can help:

▪ Watch for warning signs such as unusual sadness or isolation from family or friends, repeatedly missing work, attempting to cover up bruises, constantly asking for permission from their partner, or having no access to money.

▪ Tell the person you think she may be in danger, and let her know you want to help.

▪ Listen and be supportive, not judgmental or controlling.

▪ Offer to help her create a plan for safely leaving her abuser, when she decides to do so.

▪ Call 911 if you believe the person is in immediate danger.

Wichita WIN is hosting an open house at 10 a.m. Oct. 13, at its offices, 510 E. Third St.; and its Platinum Anniversary Celebration fundraiser, 6:30 p.m. at the Wichita Boathouse. For details, call 262-3960 or visit wichitawin.org.

Karen Schmidt is executive director of the Wichita Women’s Initiative Network.