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Letter: Hidden in plain sight: domestic violence

CEO Erin Prochnow shares what the YWCA wants for our community during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Erin Prochnow.jpg
Prochnow is CEO of YWCA Cass Clay.
We are part of The Trust Project.

In the past two years, nine of the 13 adult females murdered in North Dakota were killed by spouses or intimate partners.

Lethal domestic violence is shocking.

Another statistic pointing to home as the most dangerous place for a woman: one in four women in America will experience physical abuse by a partner in her lifetime. Prevalence grows when adding experiences of prolonged damaging emotional abuse. Domestic abuse is frequently a toxic combination of physical, emotional and financial abuse. The latter - running up credit card debt or stealing pay - can entrap a woman in poverty for years, especially when children join her in escaping a dangerous home.

YWCA Cass Clay operates the largest emergency shelter for women and children in North Dakota and a large area of Minnesota. It’s where 1,300+ are sheltered each year, 90% directly escaping domestic violence.

Nationally, October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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Awareness of domestic violence is sometimes high, like when shocking headlines report a man stalking and killing an ex-wife.

Yet anger quickly fades to complacency, while violence, fear, stalking and trauma continue next door.

It’s because certain stereotypes and attitudes plant the flourishing seeds of disbelief that keep domestic violence hidden in plain sight. People tend to make assumptions about what they know about a person. “That person is so charming. They’re a leader in the community. They have happy children. He could never be abusive.”

Or they say about her, the victim: “She’s educated. She’s smart. She came from a great family and good upbringing. How could she become a victim of domestic violence?”

Disbelief is the overlooked remains of biased thinking, and exactly what causes women shame and pain in leaving abusive relationships.

Domestic violence cuts across all economic sectors, education levels and races.

Here is what YWCA wants for our community during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

First, reject violence in all forms. Next, a community of people who activate a vigilant check on biases and assumptions hearing about domestic violence situations in their neighborhood or the media. Next, gratitude for law enforcement who perform the dangerous and difficult work of responding to volatile domestic violence situations daily in our community. And last, for all to invest in the important agencies that respond to survivors with support, emergency safety, transportation and long-term housing of domestic violence survivors – ours being one of them.

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Prochnow is CEO of YWCA Cass Clay.

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