ALAMOSA — The San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group on Friday hosted a candlelight vigil honoring the lives of women and men who have lost their lives to domestic violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and various activities are being held to recognize this significant issue.
“Almost everyone you know has been affected by domestic violence in some way,” said SLV Behavioral Health Group Victim Advocate Janine Stovall during the “Silence Hides Violence” event. “If you take a step back and think about it, really, you yourself could be a victim of domestic violence and not even realize it.”
Stovall referred to a definition of domestic abuse from Justice.gov: “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
Stovall added, “With that being said, if you have ever had a friendship where another person used their strength or power against you to make you feel like you had lost control, you have experienced domestic violence.”
She said domestic violence is everything from severe bullying to emotional, verbal, physical, and even sexual abuse of a partner by another partner. Sometimes the signs are noticeable, and sometimes they are totally invisible, but that does not make them any less traumatic for the person going through that living hell. Oftentimes, the victims hide the signs of their distress in order to not seem weak or vulnerable in front of family and friends, out of fear, or because they do not even know which way to turn next, Stovall explained.
“These victims are real, and they are suffering and they need their voices to be heard,” she said.
October is a month dedicated to hearing the message that domestic violence is an epidemic and the victims of this horribly intimate act need to find some kind of comfort. Local and national organizations all over the country create campaigns to equip, assist, and empower those people affected by any means necessary, from providing a safe place to live to providing counseling.
“The only way that this epidemic will ever be truly recognized is if it is talked about,” Stovall added. “If awareness is taught and survivors are helped, only then can a difference be made. It is not as simple as a hashtag on a tweet, it takes much more.”
She explained that it might be easier to talk about other issues, from illnesses and diseases to disorders, because those are personal issues that occur naturally and tragically. Domestic violence happens very close to home, and it is not always easy to see, feel, or even define to someone else if they can’t feel its sting. Domestic violence happens in intimate settings away from doctors with physical proof and away from friends and family who can show support through treatment visits and patience. Domestic violence is often quiet, and it generates a very fragile conversation. The victim themselves may feel too scared to ever even mention it. And, as it is with most things in this world, if someone can’t see or feel it, it becomes hard for them to understand it, Stovall explained.
“It does not have to be that way; things can be different. Education about the signs of domestic violence can be taught, prevention can be encouraged, and assistance can be given to more and more of those in need if we could all just remove the confusion and the discomfort surrounding the topic and recognize its importance.
“If we can see it more as an epidemic and less like something that can be ignored, then more victims will find the ability to stand up comfortably and use their voice.
This conversation needs to be had and continue being had over and over again; it cannot be shoved under the rug and ignored, because when that occurs, there is silence. And if there is anything that can be taken from this evening, it’s that silence always hides the violence. It’s time to find an end.”
Caption: SLV Behavioral Health Group Victim Advocate Janine Stovall speaks during the “Silence Hides Violence” candlelight vigil at Adams State’s CASA Center. Courtesy photo