Recognize families that need support during Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Your Turn

Every month is dedicated to some special cause. October is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness, Women’s Health Awareness, Italian American Heritage Month and I’m sure many other worthy causes.

As founder and executive director of Dottie’s House, I know of one cause that those who may be honored in October may also be personally affected — and that is that October is also recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Those of us living in the Ocean/Monmouth County area have once again recently been touched by and reminded of the horrors of domestic violence when we learned of the brutal murder of Lisa Zindell.

Many people think that domestic violence happens to other people — people who are poor or uneducated and that it only happens to “those people.” That seems to be a term that we all like to apply to people whose lives we believe are vastly different from our own. But when you start to pay attention, you learn that there is no type, color, career, size or age that is immune to this ugly social disease.

Lisa was a social worker who was no stranger to abuse. She was employed by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, better known as DYFS. She spent her days dealing with the result of families in crisis. Unfortunately, on Aug. 13, she lost her own life at the hands of her ex-fiancé in a murder-suicide assault. Lisa’s life was ended in her prime, and sadly, tragic stories like Lisa’s have become far too common in New Jersey. I am sure Lisa’s family, friends and co-workers had no idea how much risk she was in as she went about her daily routine, trying to survive.

Lisa had done all the right things, including obtaining a restraining order from the courts. But violence cannot be stopped by a piece of paper.

It can only be stopped by you and me — by each of us refusing to accept behavior that is violent in any form, physical, emotional, verbal. It all has the same effect, and that is to destroy the life of the victim. It has become pervasive to the point where statistics show that our teenagers, our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors, are being abused, and most victims, including teenagers, believe it is acceptable behavior because “he/she doesn’t mean anything … It’s because he/she loves me so much.” The subtle or constant threats victims live with on a daily basis are not something we want to acknowledge.

October will pass, and the press coverage will stop, we’ll all focus on the next month and celebrate and acknowledge the causes of November.

But what if the next act of violence you read about is about someone you know and love, some innocent person who was so ashamed of the abuse suffered that they never bothered to tell anyone, that they hid the bruises and the hurt?

We have many shelters and housing facilities to house these victims, but sadly, not enough. And there never will be enough, until we all recognize this atrocity and refuse to accept violent behavior —behavior that intimidates, humiliates and sometimes kills the victim.

It is time. Time to stop the violence, to not look away, not deny, not ignore the signs that usually start out very simply: checking your cell phone, questioning where you are, who you are with, why you didn’t answer your phone. And it very often escalates into something more serious.

We don’t really have a proper name for this disease. Some call it domestic abuse or teen dating violence. It has nothing to do with domesticity or with being a teenager. It does have to do with power and control and insecurity and with reducing a person’s self-esteem to the point where they submit to the abuse.

Women are most vulnerable between the ages of 16 and 24, and they are the ones who are most victimized, but not exclusively. Senior citizens have been beaten and murdered by spouses of 50 or more years. In 2008 the percent of murders committed in New Jersey as a result of relationship abuse increased by more than 50 percent. I’m sure that some of them were breast cancer survivors, had experienced serious health problems and survived. But they died because they were victims of abuse.

The children are the most innocent victims, and the scars they suffer from being witness to these horrible acts can take a lifetime to heal. Sometimes they never do, and the children grow up to repeat the violence they were raised with.

Dottie’s House is one of many facilities that offer housing, shelter, counseling and a host of other programs to help the survivors regain their self-esteem and learn to live a life free of violence for themselves and for their children.

We appreciate your support and your desire to help these families. We know that everyone reading this knows or suspects that someone you know has been or is now a victim. Together, if we acknowledge the violence, speak out against it and refuse to tolerate it, we can save a life and change the lives of all of our children.

For more information on Dottie’s House, please call 732-295-7380.

Carol A. Wolfe Executive Director and Founder

Dottie’s House