Monday, September 24, 2012

Domestic Abuse Awareness - Kudos to York YWCA

Stand Up and Speak Out -
Kudos to the York County YWCA

http://www.milestonespr.comMilestones Communications is a small PR firm that works with groups large and small, corporate and non-profit. We also are active in community service, volunteerism and working pro bono for causes near and dear.

This year, we wanted to commit to helping raise awareness about domestic abuse. Why this cause and why now? Because we believe our homes should be a place of safety, love, respect and admiration – for all.  

Putting an End to Domestic Abuse

We were moved to action after seeing an Associated Press report that indicated 1 in 4 women had suffered at the hands of someone they loved and trusted, someone they’d lived with or had been in a relationship with. The number was startling to most – to all except those who work with the victims. And they, across the board, knew the numbers were higher than most of us imagined. The acts of violence included murders, beatings, rapes and stalking along with strikes and blows, pushes, shoves and threats thereof. We realized then that the number of women, children and men who also experienced domestic abuse of all sorts had to, likewise, be beyond our comprehension.
Consider this:
  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States
  • Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life
  • 20% to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in college
  • Women who have experienced DV are 80% more likely to have a stroke, 70% more likely to have heart disease, 60% more likely to have asthma and 70% more likely to drink heavily than women who have not
    As we gave thought to the unsettling statistics, we realized that we personally knew of those affected. Perhaps not our BFF revealing blow-by-blow accounts of the latest cut, bruise or blow, but a relative who has changed over time, a friend who doesn’t have the same zest for life, a colleague who’s more withdrawn, a church member who’s nice but distant. Chances are you also know someone having a tough time at home. Their lives may be in jeopardy, they may live in fear, walk on eggshells. Maybe not violent pushing and shoving - perhaps their reality is more subtle and socially acceptable  - but a string of stress-producing incidents, nonetheless, that keep one on edge and in constant fear that wears one out over time.
October is Domestic Violence Awarenss Month.
Do you know someone who’s the victim of domestic abuse?
If not, we’d wager it’s only because they aren’t talking. And that’s precisely why domestic abuse has the power to make so many feel so powerless. Because those abused live in fear – of saying something that will set the abuser off, doing something that will set off a series of attacks, looking or responding in a way that “invites” whatever it is that follows. Too often, the abuser puts on a happy face for the rest of the world but those closest to them encounter a snarling face who somehow believes that they can make themselves feel better by making others feel worse.
As we took to heart the sobering statistics, we came to the conclusion that none of us should accept or minimize abuse in any form. Those who are abused don’t speak up and don’t seek help because they feel they can’t. The first step in understanding their pain - be it physical, mental or emotional - is learning more about it. From there, we can lend our compassion, our care and concern, critical resources and most of all, intolerance for the inexcusable, the unacceptable and the unfathomable. Knowing what to look for will make it more difficult for those committing abuse to continue on unnoticed, unaccountable, or unconcerned.

And let’s not make the mistake of thinking that it’s just women. These stats include teens, youths and men.
Do you know someone who's helping victims of domestic abuse?
Our goal is to share more in the months ahead, spotlighting the organizations that work to raise awareness about domestic abuse as well as speak with those most affected. We will feature shelters and organizations from around the country, all doing very different things to help the many affected by domestic abuse. If you know someone who should be included, please touch base with me at
We start today with the York County YWCA in York, PA.

Tell us more about your organization.
ACCESS-York/Victim Assistance Center/YWCA York is York County’s primary service agency for victims of sexual violence, domestic violence and other violent crimes.  Each year, the program serves thousands of York County residents through our Counseling Services, Options Counseling, Legal Advocacy, Medical Advocacy, Outreach, Community Education, Training, Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing. We are accessible 24/7 through our hotlines. Domestic Violence 1-800-262-8444—Sexual Violence 1-800-422-3204. ACCESS- York/VAC/YWCA York has a rich tradition of serving York County and the state of Pennsylvania for over 30 years.

What drew you to the field? How did you become involved?
All forms of family violence impact countless individuals and communities. The impact of such trauma impedes an individual and a community’s capacity to actualize their potential.  Services assist victims to recovery and to greater wisdom, health and independence as a survivor. We as a society are only as good as the strength and vitality of our core family units and the potential and hope that individuals feel in themselves and the future. 
Why do abusers abuse?
Abusers abuse for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes at the core is some combination of the following;  prior family of origin violence, socializing features, personal inadequacies, insecurity, psychopathology, substance abuse, stress/adversity and poor personal coping strategies. Abusers typically exercise power and control over family members in a manner that injures the safety and well-being of family members and holds the family captive within the family unit.
Is it the victim’s fault?
Victims are not to blame for their victimization. It is common for victims to blame themselves and to make allowances for their abusers. While a full range of emotions can be experienced in the context of family relationships, violence, aggression and control are not healthy expressions of emotions. The abusers actions are destructive to the healthy functioning of all victims.
Are there victims who’ve broken the cycle and what made the difference?

Many victims break the cycle of abuse. It is important to understand this as an individualized process with some relapse to unhealthy dynamics expected. Typically a victim makes the transition to survivorhood by recognizing their own self worth, addressing fear and anger that is inherent in the trauma and the prospect of a new and uncertain future, securing basic resources and cultivating hope and competencies for the future. Each victim embarks on a highly personal and individual road to recovery.

How can they find help safely?

ACCESS-York/VAC/YWCA York maintains a 24/7 confidential hotline for services. A client can expect to speak directly with a counselor who will first and foremost listen and provide options for the caller. Our agency provides a full range of services in our effort to respond to the full range of needs that clients present.

All services are confidential and safety planning is the first step to recovery.

What are common myths and misconceptions about victims?

Misperceptions about victims are varied and misleading. The most common myth is that the victim was somehow responsible for their abuse (victim blaming).  Victim blaming is witnessed on an individual, institutional and societal levels. Dispelling the victim blaming myth is central to all advocacy efforts. Other misperceptions include; DV only happens in poorer communities—it happens everywhere and all racial, gender groups and socioeconomic classes are represented. DV only happens to women---- DV impacts men, women and children. Why doesn’t she just leave? --- This misperception demonstrates ignorance for the traumagenic dynamics inherent in a domestic violence situation.

What are the signs of physical abuse?

Physical abuse manifests itself most obviously through physical injury or evidence of past repeated injuries. Some other indicators of physical abuse include; hyper vigilance; sensitivity to other’s touch; pervasive anxiety; flinch responses; aggressive behaviors and a full range of other post-traumatic symptomology. 

What are the signs of non-violent abuse?

Abuse can take many forms and always includes some form of co-occurring psychological trauma.  Emotional abuse can include excessive devaluing, pervasive insult, grooming, manipulation, psychological control and any other behavioral dynamics which seek to control, inhibit, lower self esteem and manipulate.

What can friends and family do to help?

The most successful interventions occur when family and friends are educated to recognize warning signs and assist to seek help for individuals.  Victims may or may not be initially responsive to assistance. But many times, a community well-educated about warning signs with access to resources can be tremendously successful at patiently supporting a victim in need. 

What can the public do to help?

Increasing public awareness about family violence is foundational to assuring that victims are connected to services and that intolerance for such violence becomes the norm.  Prevention and awareness efforts can only be successful if they are reinforced and expected.  We must reach all of our children with education and scrutinize and reconfigure our socialization of males to include a new definition of strength and respect. The public can also support the victim services agencies in your community. The demand for services has dramatically increased as the public funding for services has greatly decreased.

Tell us more about the greatest success story you’ve seen.

Everyday there are new sparkles of hope and increased self-worth for our clients. To see them leave their psychological captivity and shine toward a future that can be brighter is the cornerstone to all that we do. Countless individuals have left our services after a painful and frightening transition to self- empowerment.  We are motivated each and every day by the smiles we see on the faces of children and adults who now believe in themselves.

For six months before coming into the shelter, my four year-old son didn’t speak—not a word. He stopped speaking because he was afraid. Every day in our house, you didn’t know if my husband was going to hit us, yell or break something.

I knew I had to get out to save my son, but I didn’t know where to go. After a really bad night, I finally got the courage to leave. I took my son, one bag of clothes and left. The people in the shelter helped us to get more clothes, fed us, and helped me find my first job. They even got my son some new toys.
After a week in the shelter, my son starting speaking again. This made me cry, and I realized that for the first time, in a very long time, he felt safe. YWCA’s ACCESS-York program saved his life.
-Survivor 2012
How can we help your organization?

ACCESS-York/VAC/YWCA York is always seeking ambassadors and volunteers to spread awareness. All of our services are offered free to the public. As a result, we need community and business financial support to preserve our services for the community. We rely on public funding which has been dramatically cut in recent years.

Our thanks to:

Rick Azzaro LCSW
Chief Services Officer
ACCESS-York/Victim Assistance Center/ YWCA York
Is there a local organization you know that’s doing great things in the community to help victims of domestic abuse? Drop us a line. We’d love to support their cause.

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