When people ask me about the women that we serve at the Mission, many things come to mind. Here’s just a small description of what we see. They come to us hurt and broken. They have been labeled by the world and have felt tossed to the side. They often wonder if anyone cares.
So where do these feelings come from? Well, for many women at the Mission, these feelings and struggles are a direct result of being a victim of Domestic Violence.
Between 80-90% of the women that we serve at the Mission have experienced Domestic Violence at some point during their lifetime. Domestic Violence does not discriminate. It does not care about how educated you are. It does not care where you live. It does not care how much money you have in your bank account. Domestic Violence could happen to anyone anywhere. Most people do not realize that I am a survivor of domestic violence. Years in an abusive relationship lead me down a path of hate and self-destruction until one day I surrendered and gave my life to Christ. From that point on, Christ took the pain and hurt, and I made it my life’s mission to help other women turn from victims to overcomers.
Domestic Violence is a serious problem in our state and in our community. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 81% of female homicides in Louisiana are committed by a partner, making us 2nd in the nation of women victims being killed by male offenders. On top of that, Domestic Violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
We know that love should never hurt. So the question is, how can we help reduce domestic violence in our community? Here’s where we can start:
First, we must be willing to have a conversation about Domestic Violence. Many times, victims feel shamed. I know that I and many other women at the Mission stayed in an abusive relationship far longer than we should have. Why did we stay? Because we were so broken, we didn’t believe we deserved better and if we did want to leave, we felt that we didn’t have anywhere to go. Be willing to talk about Domestic Violence and let others know that it is never okay. Also, let victims know that there are resources like the Mission available for women in crisis.
Second, learn to recognize the signs of Domestic Violence (found at https://www.thehotline.org/) and be available if a friend needs help. Too many times in our society, we think it’s none of my business. I shouldn’t get involved in other people’s personal lives. The truth is Domestic Violence is everyone’s business. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90% of these are eyewitnesses. Studies show that children that are exposed to Domestic Violence have an increased risk of either being victims or being abusers themselves. If we want to end Domestic Violence in our community, we cannot turn a blind eye.
Finally, support the Mission and the work that we do to help women and children heal from Domestic Violence. When you support the Mission with your prayers, financially, volunteering, or by donating clothes or goods, you are helping provide victims of Domestic Violence with hope, healing and the tools they need to live independently.
I can’t and the Mission cannot make Domestic Violence go away on our own. We need your help and partnership. Recently, I listened to a segment on Robert and Erin in the Morning that featured Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond (hear the entire interview here: https://710keel.com/police-chief-reacts-to-spike-in-crime-this-summer/). They spoke about the recent spike in crime during the Summer months and what that meant for Shreveport. What he said spoke to my heart. It is not solely the police’s job to fix the crime rate in our community. It is us as a community coming together, having difficult conversations and beginning to do more prevention rather than reaction. We as a community have to be actively engaged in change in our cities.
You can be a part of change in our cities. Start by supporting the Mission and the work that we do with your prayers, your finances and your time. Then, let your friends and family know what we do and that there is hope and healing for Domestic Violence survivors. Finally, follow us on social media to see how YOU are changing our cities one life at a time.
Donna Otwell, Director of Women and Children’s Program