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Going Public : Local Events Show Support For Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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SEMO Safe House For Women
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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In the United States, family and domestic violence are a common problem, affecting an estimated 10 million people every year. 

Throughout the month of October, resources in Cape Girardeau will be offering aid and awareness opportunities to community members on the subject of domestic violence. 

On October 5th, The Safe House for Women, a non-profit agency that provides shelter and support services to adults and children who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, or stalking held a ‘lantern release’ in partnership with the Cape County Sheriff’s office in support of domestic violence victims. 

The Safe House is also hosting their annual 'Vintage Now' fashion show on October 9th.

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Credit Vintage Now Fashion Show / Facebook
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  The show’s theme ‘A Tale of Time’, will feature fashion from 1920-2020. The event aims to spread awareness on domestic violence, celebrate and empower survivors, and raise funds for the Safe House for Women

Domestic abuse survivor and Cape Girardeau community member Leslie Washington has been an active participant in the Vintage Now fashion shows, and also works actively to share her story in hopes of helping others escape domestic abuse and support those who are survivors. 

Washington credits the Safe House as a crucial outlet in her process of receiving the support necessary to persevere through her personal experience with domestic abuse. 

“They help you with your legal rights, they helped me with filing my divorce and things of that nature. They helped a lot, and women that come to the shelters can get a voucher and go to the thrift store and get items that you need because when you're in that situation you can't take everything from home, we have to travel accordingly like in my situation,” said Washington. “I called the safe house for women here and they said ‘well Leslie we have a bed for you just get on the Greyhound bus and we got you’.”

Washington explained the final event that urged her to seek help was when her ex-husband fractured the orbit in her left eye in 2013. 

“I was with my ex-husband for nine years, we were married, and they do that honeymoon stage, like everything is all well and good… then we started dating and everything was fine for the most part, and then it just went to hell in a handbasket,” said Washington. “He started abusing me --He would send me to school and work with bruises on my face and it was just embarrassing.”

Washington explains that even without physical signs abuse could still be happening, and that there is not one particular type of abuser. 

“It happens 365 days a year, seven days a week, and we just need to be aware of that and especially in a pandemic where men, women, and children may be in a situation where tempers maybe flaring, things may be happening that we don't even know about but you just have to be aware it happens all the time,” said Washington. “I found an abuse justification online that said ‘abusive people use every excuse in the book to justify the vile abuse they knowingly inflict on others. They justify it to themselves by saying the victim made them do it. The system somehow deserved it, the victim is a bad person, the victim wound them up, and the victim needed to be taught a lesson.”

Washington mentioned that many additional elements impact victims when attempting to leave an abusive partner, and the effects continue even after you have received help. 

“I mean they say it takes seven to eight times for women to actually want to leave their abuser, you know, that's when they actually are physically or mentally tired. I mean women stay for financial reasons, --it's not just hitting, it's spiritual abuse, they threaten your children, it could be religious, it could be any number of things that goes into domestic violence.”

Washington continued to experience abuse and harassment from her partner via social media. 

“He was on Instagram and he had a firearm, and then he had a fully loaded clip on the bed for everybody to see, so that was sending that message to me that he was gonna threaten me,” said Washington. “That's what abusers do, they use their social media for digital stalking, so you just have to be careful, and you just have to plan carefully, --you have to plan accordingly if you're in a situation with an abuser. 

Washington expressed that even though a victim may want to escape an abusive relationship, leaving is much more challenging than just escaping a physical space. 

“You can't just easily leave, you have to make a plan, you are going to need important documents, your ID, social security card, and any type of medicine you need,” said Washington. “They say that if you do like any type of research, or like if you're looking for a domestic violence shelter, you don't use a laptop at home, go to the library or go to a friend's house, because, you know, if they're [the abuser] is watching your every move, you’re definitely not going to be able to do stuff at home.”

Similarly, Washington said that having personal relationships as resources are also vital to leaving a domestic abuse situation. Offering safe spaces as a shelter for victims can provide them the time they need to support themselves. 

“You gotta have somebody that's gonna be in your corner that will help you get through this and potentially be an ally for you, like being able to take your bag over to your neighbor's house or  trusted family member,”

Washington continues to share her story in hopes to spread awareness on the subject and help victims survive and escape their situations. 

“I am more than happy to share my experiences, I take and use them for the positive, I don’t use it for the negative. I share my story on various platforms just to help get that awareness out there.” said Washington.