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October is time for domestic abuse awareness

Oct. 2 was the official kickoff for Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the Bemidji City Hall. Throughout the United States, the battered women's movement uses October as the month to educate our community members and create awareness of domestic violence in our society.

Domestic violence is something that has the ability to wreak havoc among our entire community. Its victims are of every socio-economic level, every culture, every nationality and spirituality. There is no age limit for victims of domestic violence. it affects everyone from the very young to the very old and every age in between. Victims of family violence are everywhere. They are your neighbors, your sisters, your daughters and grandmothers. They are your sons and fathers.

And sometimes, they are you. I myself am a victim of domestic violence and I was also a battered women's advocate at the time. Even with all my knowledge and resources, I was an isolated, terrified mother of three who was being abused both physically and mentally within my own home.

I ask you to think about this one point long after you're done reading this. If it took me 10 years to get up the courage and self empowerment to leave my own dangerous and violent situation, how long do you think it might take a woman who has no resources, who doesn't know the system and who believes she is alone and no one can help her? In some cases quite a long time, and unfortunately for some victims leaving the situation can mean her death because the abuser made the decision to murder her.

We have lost in this community alone, and when I say that I mean Bemidji and the closely surrounding areas, 33 women, children and men over the past 18 years due to domestic violence. That number is catastrophic when you think about how many lives were affected besides the victim. Their children, family and friends, their places of employment, their churches or community centers or even their schools will undoubtedly feel the ripple effect from that one supreme act of violence.

The latest buzz in the news has been about the N1H1 virus or swine flu as it's sometimes called. I tend to think of domestic violence in the same way -- it is a societal disease, a virus if you will that has reached epidemic proportions. It kills many of its victims just like the super flu. H1NH1 now has a vaccine. So does domestic violence. The three key ingredients of our domestic violence vaccine are education, awareness and prevention.

We all know that with knowledge comes power. We at Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety invite you to use that power to help us create a safer, healthier place to live. Let children know that they can choose to walk the path of peace and love instead of the road toward violence and anger. We truly can make a difference because even the smallest pebbles can create ripples that will span an entire ocean. We have the power to save a life!

Kathryn Anne Lavelle is outreach and education coordinator for the Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety in Bemidji.