In July of 2003, over 500 participants gathered in Baltimore, Maryland for a groundbreaking event, the First International Conference on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community. The event was sponsored by Jewish Women International and featured over 100 speakers. October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Jewish Family Service in Omaha is, once again, bringing the issue to the attention of the community.
“Domestic violence does not care if you are young or old, black or white, Jewish or not Jewish,” said Karen Gustafson, Jewish Family Service Executive Director. “Violence comes when one person wants to control another. There is a myth that only men are abusive, and that violence only affects married couples. Domestic violence can come from a parent to a child, a child to a parent, a boyfriend to a girlfriend or the other way around. You could say that domestic violence is an equal opportunity societal problem.”
Jewish Family Service works closely with the Women’s Center for Advancement (WCA), the designated direct service provider for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Douglas County. Michelle Patterson, MSW/MPA, is the organization’s Compliance and Evaluation Administrator. “In the first six months of 2016, the WCA provided close to 14,200 services to over 2,300 unique individuals who have been victims of domestic or sexual violence in our community,” she said. “The Women’s Center for Advancement also provided education and training to 1,628 members of the community on related issues, 381 victims attended support groups, and volunteers donated over 3,200 hours from January to June of 2016. The need is there.”
The Power and Control Wheel and the Equity Wheel are two effective tools used in the education process. The Wheels were developed in 1984 by staff at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) as a way to describe the most common abusive behaviors or tactics that were most universally experienced by battered women. “Jewish Family Service plans to donate Equity Wheels to all the synagogues in Omaha,” Karen Gustafson said. “The Wheel describes the changes needed for men who batter to move from being abusive to non-violent partnership. It’s hard to admit, but some respected members of a community do exert power, control and intimidation at home, possibly committing emotional or physical violence towards their partners. Jewish Family Service wants to heighten awareness and encourage change.”
The 2016 Awareness Calendar developed by Psychology Today, lists over one hundred special dates dedicated and devoted to raising awareness about important emotional, physical and psychological health issues, including World Cancer Day, Ethnic Equality Week, and Bullying Prevention Month. October, in addition to its designation as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, also recognizes the International Day of Non-Violence; National Depression Screening Day; World Mental Health Day; National Teen Driver Safety Week; and Red Ribbon Week for a Drug Free America. “We can’t examine every ‘awarness’ topic in the Jewish Press,” Gustafson said, “but we want people to be mindful.”
“It’s a myth, that violence happens to other people in other communities,” Gustafson continued. “Sadly, even the number of our teens experiencing relationship abuse is on the rise. If you know someone that you feel is being controlled by another person, either physically or emotionally, please encourage them to get some help and support in order to encourage better boundaries within the relationship. No one deserves to be abused. There are resources out there to help.”
Additional information is available through Jewish Family Service at 402.330.2024. For emergency assistance call the Women’s Center for Advancement 24/7 Crisis Hot Line at 402.345.7273.