Prevail, Inc., a Hamilton County-based non-profit organization advocating for victims of crime and abuse, is asking the community to “Go Purple” during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
“Domestic violence has been in the news a lot with the NFL. It happens here and happens every day,” Prevail Executive Director Susan Ferguson said. “There were 67 lives lost from July 2013 to June 2014 (in Indiana), up from the previous year.”
Prevail employees said situations like that for pro football player Ray Rice, whose videotaped attack of his then-fiancé sparked national outrage, are helpful to bring media and social attention.
“It puts the issue at the forefront. Silence is worse. It makes it shameful,” said Natasha Robinson, Prevail’s public relations coordinator.
“People don’t know what we do it because there is so much shame,” said Kristen Nelessen, who serves as Prevail’s youth advocate. “It’s about getting the kids involved, too, to end intergenerational violence.”
Last year, of the 2,705 clients served at Prevail, 1,604 were adults, adolescents and children who were victims of family violence. Brittany Winebar, youth services coordinator, said that domestic violence in Hamilton County is “definitely on the rise” but many victims do not come forward.
“It’s difficult to track,” she said. “It’s very underreported. People don’t seek services or interact with law enforcement when it’s happening. The numbers are not completely reflective of how prevalent it is within the community.”
While crisis intervention is an important immediate response to domestic violence, Prevail officials said there is a need to raise awareness and develop effective prevention strategies. The goal of the “Go Purple” campaign is to drop the stigma associated with domestic violence.
“It’s a lot easier to wear a pink ribbon (for breast cancer awareness) than wearing purple,” Ferguson said. “There’s a misunderstanding of ‘why did you let that happen or keep going back?’ The circumstances are way deeper than they understand. It’s teaching people the cycle of abuse.”
“My biggest pet peeve is victim blaming,” Stephanie Holmes-Gullans, Prevail’s administrative assistant, said. “Domestic violence is a community issue. … It takes everyone to change.”
For the campaign, Prevail is making “Stop the Violence” and “Go Purple” products like ribbons, bracelets and pens available to the community. Domestic Violence Awareness Month posters and Prevail posters also are also offered for purchase to be displayed at organizations or throughout the community.
“Domestic violence is all-inclusive of emotion, social, financial, verbal and sexual abuse,” said Suzanne Vertigan, adult advocate. “It’s not just a black eye and bloody lips. People I talk to don’t really think it is going on because it is non-visual.”
Prevail offers a number of free services including group and individual therapy to clients.
Since she works with younger kids as the child advocate, Nelessen said her focus is on feelings, coping skills and emotional regulation.
“Most don’t want to try group at first, but they learn this isn’t just something that happens at my house,” she said.
Adolescent advocate Leah Salazar said her group provides a safe place for teenagers.
“For one hour they don’t have to worry if mom’s OK, their siblings are OK or dad’s OK. They can focus on themselves,” she said.
At the highest level, adults make a 12-week commitment and are given information from options for meals to healing from trauma.
“I would love to be out of a job,” Vertigan said. “I wish there was no domestic violence, that no one was ever manipulated or forced to do something they didn’t want to do.”
For more information, visit www.prevailinc.com or contact Michelle Corrao at 773-6942 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The 24-hour crisis line is 776-3472.