Our Opinion: Raising awareness about a complex issue

“Expect Respect.”

That was the message written in yarn on a railing outside the Cole County Courthouse. It was created during a recent “yarn bombing” by volunteers with the Rape and Abuse Service (RACS) to raise awareness about domestic violence.

How do we as a community facilitate understanding and awareness?

Pam Otto, RACS volunteer and outreach coordinator, surveyed the staff and wrote: “As a society, we need to make an effort to understand that domestic violence is a very complex issue.”

Understanding involves recognizing that offenders are manipulative and they exploit victims’ vulnerabilities.

“We often hear people say things like ‘I would never allow my partner to hit me. If he tried it once, it would be the last time because I would leave/hit him back/kill him,’” Otto wrote. “Those sorts of statements undermine survivors of domestic violence, make them feel that it’s their fault that they have not been able to leave an abusive relationship and minimize the control that’s present in these relationships.”

In addition to understanding, respect and support for victims also is encouraged.

“We need to understand and vocalize that survivors of domestic violence are strong,” Otto wrote. “If now isn’t a safe time for them to leave an abusive relationship, we should respect that and let them know that they still have our support, and then be there for them when they do decide to leave.”

Domestic violence may be a complex problem, but we — as individuals and as a community — can send a message that it will not be tolerated.

We can identify and report offenders, support and respect victims, and model behaviors that destroy the cycle of domestic violence.

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