Gallagher: Take the right steps to stop the madness | AspenTimes.com

Gallagher: Take the right steps to stop the madness

R.J. Gallagher Jr.
Philantopia

"Domestic abuse, also called intimate partner violence, is the systematic suffocation of another person's spirit." — Joanna Hunter, author of "But He'll Change."

You only need to read this column if you have a mother, sister, brother, wife, father, daughter, grandmother, girlfriend, boyfriend, niece, nephew, son or significant other.

If you have ever been on the delivering side within an abusive relationship, now is the time to take the appropriate steps to stop the madness because there are almost limitless ways to seek and find the help and support you need. You just have to take the first step.

It's time to give back the spirit you have stolen from others. The spirit that promotes hope, happiness and personal confidence. It's just not right for anyone to take those aspirations and freedoms away from someone else. Ever.

Now is the time to grab a seat and focus, because you need to read the following alarming statistics, provided by Safe Horizon and Response, very carefully.

Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least 1 in every 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.

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One in every 4 women and 1 in every 7 men will experience domestic violence within their lifetime. Nearly 70 percent of female and 53 percent of male victims experience some form of intimate-partner violence for the first time before age 25.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Combined!

Studies suggest that as many as 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.

Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Again, every day in the United States more than three women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends. I had to read that twice to grasp its reality, so I wanted to make sure you did also. Spend a few minutes on that one. It's beyond comprehension. At least mine. And it needs to be radically addressed. Now.

Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern. Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted nongovernmental organizations, shelters or the police for help. So you see, these alarming statistics are not even close to reality. And that's a startling reality.

Men, who as children witnessed their parents' domestic violence, were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents. The gift that keeps on giving, I guess.

For 30 years, Response has supported victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through its 24-hour support and crisis hotline, emergency shelter (for families and their pets), court and medical advocacy, adult and teen support groups, one-on-one peer support and often through to other partner agencies to provide a continuum of care for victims and their families.

Its mission is to support, educate and empower victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It provides complimentary, confidential, nonjudgmental support for people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Its services, many of which are provided by its expertly trained volunteers, are vital to guaranteeing the well-being and safety of our community members in need. Did I mention that all of its services are free and completely confidential?

In 2013, Response served 209 new, unduplicated clients and a total of 561 individual survivors. Response victim advocates provided over 10,933 volunteers hours to support all 561 survivors in Pitkin and western Eagle counties.

Response programs have grown to include prevention programs within the schools, such as teen-dating violence, sexual and cyber bullying, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, assistance with applications for victim's compensation, U-visas and immigration as well as human-trafficking support services. Response legal advocates assist their clients in obtaining restraining orders and in selecting appropriate legal counsel.

In 2013, the Response crisis helpline received 145 contacts, about 2.75 calls per week. It also provided 22 nights of emergency housing for women and managed a total of 278 contacts. Their staff advocates specifically assisted 40 women with obtaining restraining orders, and even more clients were provided with legal advocacy, such as court escorts and translations, navigating the criminal justice system and referral to appropriate legal counsel.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What better time is there to take a serious look at how you can help make a difference in our valley and make domestic violence go away?

For more information about how you can become an advocate volunteer or other ways to give or get involved, please take a minute to visit the Response website, http://www.responsehelps.org or call them at 970-920-5357. Now is the time to become a force for good.

If you are in need of the services provided by Response, you can reach out 24 hours a day on its crisis hotline at 970-925-SAFE. If you are currently thinking that you may need support and guidance for the situation you find yourself in, you probably do. Make the call.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He proudly serves on numerous non-profit Boards including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. "Philantopia" is a monthly column for The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.'s always open for ideas. You can reach him at rjg@forteinternational.net.

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