A reminder that domestic violence affects us all

October 6, 2018

The names and faces of nearly two dozen men and women line the first floor hallway of the Olmsted Government Center. Each picture is of someone in Minnesota who died in 2017 as a result of domestic violence.

Underneath their names are the details of their deaths. Next to them are boards bearing nearly two decades worth of people who were killed by intimate partners or family members.

All are a stark reminder to those who pass through that domestic violence affects every age, gender or race. The temporary installment is all part of National Domestic Violence Awareness month.

“It’s showing it does happen. Not only have people lost their lives but there are people still surviving today … going through that in their daily life,” said Neil Denninson, of the Family Violence Coordinating Council.

During Domestic Violence Awareness month, the focus is on mourning those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived and connecting those who work to end violence, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

“Every time we do an awareness event, it gives people the opportunity and the courage to speak up and maybe even share a little piece of their story,” said Terri Allred, director of community engagement for the Women’s Shelter and Support Center in Rochester.

“Anytime we bring conversation to the public through an outreach event like this, people start learning what to say and it becomes less of a stigmatized issue and people feel more comfortable talking about it.”

While many advocates work year-round to educate the community on safe and healthy relationships as well as resources that are available to those in need, the month also gives another opportunity to do outreach to those who may be unaware of the services available.

“It’s a way for everybody to increase awareness, have events, community dialogues, and for systems to work across each other and ultimately, what we hope in Olmsted County is that people are going to see some of our initiatives and know how to find us for either when they or someone they love needs us,” Allred said.

Domestic violence isn’t only physical violence, although physical violence is one of the most dangerous form of domestic violence, Allred said. It can involve emotional abuse such as belittling, demeaning or shaming a partner or family member and isolating the person.

“Domestic violence is a whole constellation of abusive behaviors that is intended to control another person, usually a partner in a relationship,” Allred said. “A lot of people assume domestic violence is all physical abuse but you can be in a really abusive relationship never having been touched before.”

Domestic violence is public health issue, criminal justice issue, and a human health and services issue, Allred said.

On Wednesday, more than 150 people filtered through the cafeteria inside the government center for the third annual soup-feed. The free lunch event was an effort by the Family Violence Coordinating Council to bring awareness about domestic violence to those who work in the building.

“Whether you work with domestic violence or not, we can still see this in our personal and private lives,” Denninson said.

In addition to getting a hot bowl of soup, attendees signed pledges to “never commit, condone or remain silent about domestic abuse/violence whether committed against women, children, and/or men.”

“From this day forward, I promise to take an active role in learning about domestic abuse/violence and to educate others,” the pledge continued.

Sitting with Dennison and Family Service of Rochester Executive Director Scott Maloney, Allred said there is always more that can be done.

“There is always more survivors to be reached. There is always more sensitivity training for those frontline responders, the police, the medical professionals, Allred said. “There is a lot more that can be done.”

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