October marks domestic violence awareness month, and regional organizations and providers addressing this issue are launching several events and walks to start conversations about this issue.
Officials from Philadelphia’s “Women Against Abuse” say their 100-bed shelter for victims of domestic abuse is filled to capacity every night of the year, and they want more people to get involved in conversations about preventing domestic violence.
Women Against Abuse has launched an early intervention program — working with Philadelphia police to contact people who may be especially vulnerable, says Molly Callahan, the organization’s legal center director.
“Victims who maybe have called the police two times, who maybe have been threatened with a gun, who have a protection from abuse order that’s being violated,” explained Callahan. “We have a counselor who calls those victims, and talks to them, gives them legal options, and hopefully, tries to get them involved with our legal center attorneys.”
Callahan says because of state budget cuts, Women Against Abuse has had to cut back on some of its services, and others are “bare bones” operations. For example, the organization has only one attorney specializing in custody issues, which is a major challenge for women trying to leave abusive relationships.
During October, Women Against Abuse is hosting a pledge challenge asking people to pledge not to raise their hands in violence, as well as a fundraising walk.
A Media psychiatrist is trying to reach a group of women who are traditionally reluctant to speak up on this topic. As a young woman, Indian-born Ujwala Dixit left an abusive marriage despite her family’s urging to keep quiet and stay put. She faced isolation and many other challenges trying to start a new life for herself and her sons.
Today, she wants to help other women of South Asian descent speak up about abuse. She says cultural barriers are strong — women are told they will bring shame on their families and communities by talking about domestic violence. Dixit says many other factors keep women from reporting abuse.
“Fear of being deported, fear of not being able to live, they don’t have appropriate licenses, and they’re on dependent visa, they don’t have an authorized visa,” she says.
Dixit heads “Service and Education for Women Against Abuse“, an organization reaching out to South Asian communities, to break the silence on issues of abuse. “The conversation may start with ‘what is our discomfort as a community with this issue?'” she says.
Dixit’s group is organizing a march “for peace at home” this Saturday at Philadelphia’s FDR park.