Bucks County Herald
The holidays can be stressful for many people, and those who suffer from intimate partner violence may feel especially vulnerable.
Nationwide statistics on domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV) are upsetting overall (1 out of every 3 women and 1 out of every 4 men have experienced some form of IPV in their lifetime), but what does it look like when we zoom in on our own neighborhood?
“Bucks County is the fourth worst county in Pennsylvania for domestic violence-related homicides” says Grace Schmoyer, a community educator with A Woman’s Place in Doylestown, PA. The community-based organization is committed to empowering women and ending all forms of intimate and domestic violence.
They receive roughly 3,000 new clients each year, many of whom make contact through their hotline. “That's the phone you'll hear constantly ringing…” Schmoyer points out. During our thirty-minute conversation, it rang three times.
It’s mid-December, and these calls are part of a repeated uptick in IPV-related cases that the organization receives every holiday season. Schmoyer, who also holds a Masters degree in Social Work, addressed this trend in a blog post she wrote for the organization’s website earlier this month [http://blog.awomansplace.org/?p=15368].
When someone is able to recognize that they’re unsafe in their relationship, whether or not it falls during the holidays, the next step is recognizing that they have options. “We always try to safety plan with everyone,” says Schmoyer.
Safety plans can include small plans that take into account daily factors, like the weather. Schmoyer recounts that during the winter, “One woman found it empowering to keep a blanket in the back of her car and just hang out until she felt like her spouse had settled down [inside].” Plans can also be more advanced, such as having a trusted neighbor or nearby relative who is ready to provide temporary shelter at a moment’s notice.
Other options for a safety plan can be placing important documents (i.e. passport) in an easy-to-remember spot, or spare car keys and a cell phone in a safe place outside the house, in case of an emergency. These are just some of many options that hotline counselors can help a client recognize for themselves.
“Intimate partner violence has a lot to do with power and control. One partner is trying to hold control over the other…and limit their independence.” Schmoyer is confident that through safety planning, those who are abused can begin to take back control of their life and empower themselves to make healthy choices that will keep them and their loved ones safe.
Schmoyer notes that leaving an abusive partner is not the safest plan sometimes. A Woman’s Place maintains that every person has options, which may include staying in the household if that is a more empowering option for the victim.
However, if one does choose to leave their partner, they are never without a complete support system, and at no cost. A Woman’s Place is “free, private and confidential.”
Whether you’re feeling unsafe on New Years Day or just another Monday, there is a place to call. A Woman’s Place 24-hour hotline number is: 800.220.8116 You can also visit their website: awomansplace.org