October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when communities across the country unite in our work to end abuse.

In our own community, we can gather together to show support for survivors of domestic violence on Sunday, Oct. 6, at the 28th annual Walk Against Domestic Violence taking place at Waterfront Park, 1 Market Square, Newburyport, behind the Firehouse Center for the Arts. 

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive, controlling and violent behavior toward a partner in an intimate relationship and can take many forms from verbal abuse to threats, isolation from family and friends, intimidation, financial control, sexual or physical violence, damaging property or threatening to harm the victim’s family, pets or even themselves.

Staggeringly, one in four women (24.3%) and one in seven men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the U.S. have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Anyone who has experienced domestic violence has a story.

This story follows “Lucy” and “Jack,” who first met when Lucy was in her early 20s. After the two moved in together, they soon welcomed their first child, followed shortly after by their second.

Jack started making subtle remarks about Lucy’s weight, which eventually escalated to insults and name-calling. This emotional and verbal abuse turned physical as the years went on. Jack began beating Lucy frequently, and strangled her twice.

Jack told Lucy that she was the problem, not him, and she believed him. Her utmost concern was to keep her family together, and she thought that she needed to stay with Jack to do so.

One night, Jack attacked her so brutally that the police were called to the home and Jack was arrested. Lucy was afraid for her life and decided to go to the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. She told the team that she wanted to provide a stable and loving home for her children. After learning about her options, she decided she no longer wanted to remain in her marriage and would divorce Jack.

The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center’s staff attorney met with Lucy to help her file for divorce and gain custody of her children. Lucy and her children participated in the Crisis Center’s transitional housing program, received clinical support and took art therapy.

Lucy joined an Empowered Parenting support group, which addresses the many ways that domestic violence can undermine parental self-confidence. Today, Lucy has stable employment and housing, and she and her children are healing from the abuse. She is providing the safe and loving home for her children that they needed.

Domestic violence is a complex issue. People who are abused often think they are to blame or that their situation is hopeless. Like Lucy, many survivors feel that they must stay with an abusive partner in order to keep their family together. It can take time for a survivor to seek support – months, or even years.

When that happens, our team is ready to assess the situation and develop a safety plan. Lucy shared the following about her experience: “I knew that I needed help to leave. Without legal programs at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, I would have been trapped in a very abusive relationship and been lost and overwhelmed trying to navigate the legal system on my own.”

At the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, we are dedicated to ending domestic violence and providing care for survivors and their families. Our mission is to empower individuals and engage communities to end domestic violence.

Last year, we provided advocacy, clinical and legal help to 1,339 survivors of domestic violence; services are always provided at no cost to survivors. We hope you will join in our mission and our annual Walk Against Domestic Violence to help us meet our $90,000 fundraising goal.

Proceeds from the event go directly to the programs and services we provide for 15 local communities, including a 24-hour emergency hotline, crisis counseling, court advocacy, legal representation, emergency and transitional housing, homicide reduction and art therapy.

To register for the event or to find more information, visit www.jeannegeigercrisiscenter.org.

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, you can make a difference in someone else’s story.

Suzanne Dubus is CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center.

Registration for the Walk Against Domestic Violence opens Sunday at 8 a.m. The three-mile scenic walk begins at 9 a.m.

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