October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and island businesses and organizations are posting signs in windows that display “We believe survivors,” as well as several sporting purple lights.
Rashaun Renggli and Tracy McClaran, advocates at the Dignity Opportunity Voice Empowerment Project (DOVE), the island’s domestic violence and sexual assault agency, reached out to local businesses this month after learning about the DVAM awareness program that began in Covington, called “Purple Light Night.” The program has since been adopted by 32 states, Canada, Guam, as well as other communities across the globe.
“We were blown away by the responses we received from the Vashon businesses,” McClaran said. “It just shows that this is an important matter to individuals on the island and that Vashon businesses are mindful about the safety and security of their patrons on the island.”
When approached by Renggli, Molly O’Brien, an employee at Vashon Print and Design, said, “it was no question” her business would choose to put up the sign and lights.
“Social justice issues are important,” O’Brien said.
Renggli talked about the importance of businesses putting up the lights and signs during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“The lights and ‘We Believe Survivors’ signs are about both community connection and domestic violence awareness because together as a community, we’re able to make island life safe for all,” Renggli said.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website lists that on a typical day in the United States, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, an average of 15 calls per minute. One in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
According to the King County domestic violence prevention website, every year approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by intimate partners. King County statistics reflect an increase of 19% over the three year period ending in 2017 in domestic abuse calls, reaching 191 per year in 2018.
“Abuse is not just physical,” said Heidi Jackson, the executive director for the Dove Project. “Enduring chronic emotional abuse and psychological abuse has the hidden consequences of putting a person at higher risk of heart disease, chronic pain, asthma and arthritis.”
She also stated, “It is not uncommon for the use of substances to play a part in coping with the abuse or the short term and long term physical effects.”
Violence happens in same-sex relationships, too. According to the website loveisrespect.org, the LGBTQ population face additional challenges of seeking help and do not always know where to turn. In many cases, both heterosexual and same-sex violence go unreported.
According to the DOVE website, reports among the teen population indicate that one in three has experienced physical, verbal, sexual or emotional abuse. Outreach programs developed by advocates of the Dove Project and trained volunteer teens target education and prevention, supported by the administrations, at both the middle and high schools population on the island.
Jackson said that although the percentage of local instances of domestic violence and sexual assault are comparable per capita across the King County region, rural areas are two and a half times more likely to see fatalities and significant physical injuries in domestic violence situations than are urban areas.
The DOVE Project gained official 501(c)3 status in March of 2013, recognizing that intimate partner violence on the island was an unmet concern. Between 2017 and 2018, the agency has seen a 25% increase in individuals served. These direct service hours provide legal assistance, including accompanying people to their court appointments off-island, safety planning, trauma counseling and referrals to doctors, therapists and other social service teams.
“These numbers are not reflective of an increase in DV issues but rather a measure of [the community] starting to trust us as a resource,” Jackson said.
— Kate Dowling is a reporter for The Beachcomber and board member of The DOVE Project.