LENA MITCHELL: Domestic violence awareness series strikes a regional chord

The two articles the Daily Journal has published so far about domestic violence in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month have generated a lot of feedback.
The series introduction on Oct. 4 said one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence.
From the law enforcement side, the Lee County sheriff said seven out of 10 calls to his department are domestic violence calls, and officers trying to create safety in those situations are often put in jeopardy themselves.
In the second article we told the stories of two women who endured and escaped long-term abuse.
The series continues Monday with an interview of someone who is incarcerated now for domestic violence, and the final installment of the series will discuss teens and domestic violence, and how to break the cycle and prevent more victims.
Most of the calls and e-mails we’ve received from the two previous articles have been from women who endured years of abuse, but finally found the courage to leave their situations. According to the data, it takes an average of seven times for a woman to leave her abuser before she makes a final break.
Many factors go into why that is true.
But while she is gathering her resources and strength to take a first step to safety and wholeness, it’s important that women have family and friends who will stand by them.
We are fortunate to have S.A.F.E., Inc. in Tupelo, (800) 527-7233; Domestic Violence Project, Inc. in Oxford, (800) 227-5764; and Safe Haven, Inc. in Columbus, (800) 890-6040 or (662) 327-6040, as places to provide safe harbor for women and families who escape abusive situations.
They not only provide a place of physical safety but help the abuse victims receive counseling to begin their recovery.
The two women I interviewed last week said they understood how frustrated and tired their circle of supporters got when they returned repeatedly to the abuser. But until the woman reaches her trigger point, until she finally says “enough is enough,” I urge us all to stick with her.
I refer to “her” as the abuse victim, because most often that is the case.
However, domestic abuse can take many forms, and not all domestic violence is physical.
The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the crime of domestic violence “occurs when a person is forced to do what his or her abuser wants through verbal, physical, psychological or sexual violence.”
Most often, the Coalition says, psychological abuse is the opening gambit before an overt act of violence, including isolating the victim, undermining her decision-making ability and demonstrating obsessive jealousy.
Mississippi made improvements in its laws to combat domestic violence when it enacted a new law July 1 that made choking a felony crime. Before now abusers might use choking because they knew it was a misdemeanor.
But doing more to reduce or eliminate domestic violence is critical.
If we want to provide children with a healthy environment in which to learn and develop strong, healthy characters, they must be able to feel safe in their own homes.
One of those former abuse victims said it best: “Society is only as strong as the families that make it up, and until the laws are changed to protect abuse victims, families won’t be the strong building blocks of society.”

Lena Mitchell is the Daily Journal Corinth Bureau reporter. Contact her at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

LENA MITCHELL / NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau