Visitors to Friday Harbor this month may happen by the Court House and see red silhouettes on the lawn. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and these cut-outs represent the 36 people who died as a result of domestic violence last year. It is a sobering sight; a sad thought; and certainly not something most B&B Bloggers would ever focus on. But so many of our guests want to know what it’s like to live in a small community like Friday Harbor, and this is a part of it.
Like all communities, domestic violence is a stain on the cheery fabric of our island. The Sheriff’s Department reports that over 60% of all the calls they respond to on San Juan Island involve domestic violence. These types of calls are the most violent and most dangerous for law enforcement officials, so two officers are always present. While it may seem crass to put this in terms of costs, it is a fact that these officers are engaged for 4 and a half to five hours on these calls, and the lead officer spends an additional three hours on average filling out paperwork. They have had 75 calls this year.
Some may think that domestic violence is only in certain social-economic groups, only in certain geographical regions, but the truth is that it hides behind doors to homes large and small, rich and poor, English-speaking and foreign tongued, highly educated and barely educated. It is not just Friday Harbor but in every community across the nation, rarely spoken of, and usually misunderstood. Domestic violence touches every person in the community and society as a whole; it violates a person’s dignity, safety and basic human rights.
Nationwide, on average a woman will attempt to leave a situation of domestic violence seven times before she succeeds or is killed. The silhouettes represent those who didn’t make it. The cause of death at the hands of their abusers is enough to give pause: shot by her ex-husband; stabbed by her boyfriend; killed by their father; beaten by her boyfriend; strangled by her husband; stabbed by his teenage sister’s ex-boyfriend; suffocated by her boyfriend; beaten with a hammer by his wife; shot by her husband, shot by her husband, shot by her husband. It’s not pretty.
Today the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS) of San Juan Island hosted the “Remember My Name” vigil at the San Juan County Courthouse, to mourn the victims of violence and celebrate the survivors. This week, they launched a new program in the local schools, developing age-appropriate messages to students. They meet with kids during lunch breaks, at football games, in hallways between classes, and are working with a student in the Community Projects Class to develop targeted outreach to students. They instruct anyone who will listen in how to recognize signs of possible abuse, what to do if abuse is suspected, how to help, and where to go for help.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is not just for those who are victims; it is a time for every community to come together to build awareness and a partnership to end family and relationship violence.