October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

    **IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, PLEASE CALL 9-1-1**

    When I received my 3rd year bar card, I was honored to work in my University’s Legal Clinic where we assisted clients who lived at the local domestic violence shelter and were seeking a divorce. I met so many wonderful people and heard various stories of their struggles and desire to change. I’ll never forget my first client — a very nice gentleman who had been so abused by his wife that the stress caused him to suffer a stroke. He struggled to regain his health while being sole provider for their children. His story was heartwrenching; his divorce was his new beginning.

    Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have crossed the path of someone who suffers from domestic violence. If that person is a loved one or co-worker, it’s important that you help when you can. Here are a few things I like to stress when giving advice on how to provide aid:

    1. Know the local resources available. This includes knowing the available domestic violence shelters, government assistance, childcare, etc.
    2. Listen and try to be understanding. If nothing else, don’t judge.
    3. Keep a journal of what you see. If a case ever goes to court (often years after the abuse starts) some details can be forgotten over time. This is where a journal or diary can come in handy. Did you see bruises? Was there time missed from work? Constant hospital visits? Document it all! Those dates, times, and details can be crucial one day.
    4. Keep in touch. A lot of abusers try to isolate the victim. Try not to let weeks and months go by without speaking to them. As much as possible, make sure you have a current address and phone number.

    A great online resource to direct your loved one to is the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Someone is available 24/7 to counsel victims and help with their safety plan. There is also a “safety exit” button on the site that can be clicked in an emergency to exit the website and remove the search history, so an abuser won’t know that the victim has sought help.

    As we embark on this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month I challenge us all to keep our eyes open and consider helping our loved ones and neighbors who may be in crisis. It is very hard for a victim to escape an abusive relationship alone.  It takes all of us, working together, to bring violence to an end.

    Please watch NCADV’s Public Service Announcement.

      About Nadia Gilkes