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Through the power of popular culture and social media, the silence surrounding domestic violence has been broken. However, this pervasive epidemic reaches beyond Facebook links and hashtag hype: one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and one in three teenage girls will be physically assaulted by a boyfriend.

The Dallas Police Department receives 20,000 calls regarding domestic violence each year. These abuse victims aren’t just nameless girls in news stories or football players’ spouses – they are neighbors, friends and co-workers.

“Awareness has been brought to kitchen tables across America, but none of our clients have a video of their attack. So a lot of our clients are suffering in silence,” Genesis Women’s Shelter Director of Outreach Murphey Sears said. “So often people think this only happens in the poor part of town, but it doesn’t. Abuse happens in Highland Park, as well as South Dallas.”

Several national campaigns, notably #WhyIStayed, are striving to change the culture surrounding domestic violence. Within the Metroplex, Genesis Women’s Shelter is committed to reducing the devastating impact of family violence by providing safety, shelter and expert services to abused women and children.

Genesis has also partnered with Mayor Mike Rawlings to promote Dallas Men Against Abuse, another effort in ending domestic and teen violence in the area. This campaign invites men to join the conversation about violence and reminds pledgers: “A guy who hits a woman can be called lots of things. ‘Man’ isn't one of them.”

“Dallas is progressive about violence, partially because the mayor has taken it under his wing,” Sears said. “He has brought this issue to the forefront of men’s activism and made the conversation loud in our community.”

Abusers Don’t Always Look Threatening

Often, victims do not report violence because they fear their safety. But sometimes, victims ignore abuse because the perpetrator does not fit the stereotype of a violent person. Sears clarified, “There is no description [of an abuser]. We know abusers who are heads of hospitals, churches and law firms. It spans across all bounds.”

An abuser doesn’t have to look large or threatening, or even be a man. As seen in the comparison of Hope Solo’s and Ray Rice’s punishments, violence isn’t an issue of man against woman. Sears describes domestic abuse as “an equal opportunity epidemic.”

Abuse May Not Bruise

Domestic abuse occurs when someone exerts power and control over another person through a pattern of intentional behavior, ranging from physical, sexual, emotional and verbal attacks. According to Genesis, abuse includes:

Physical

Choking or strangulation

Throwing or breaking objects

Pushing

Using a weapon

Sexual

Rape

Forcing unwanted sex acts

Inflicts pain during sex

Emotional

Isolation

Controlling finances

Lack of trust

Criticizing

Threats of suicide

Minimizes or denies behavior

Verbal

Name-calling

Yelling

Use of profanity

Diminishing accomplishments

“Most of the red flags of abuse have to do with power and control,” Sears said. “Abuse is a systematic process of chipping away who the victim is.”

You Can Help End Domestic Violence

Discussing domestic abuse can be uncomfortable. But if someone you know is involved in a violent relationship, you can help save her life.

“First, you just have to listen to her [the victim]. Tell her it’s not her fault,” Sears advised. “Remind her that Genesis Women’s Shelter exists and we have a 24-hour hotline. Ask her if she is safe. And know that she may not be ready to admit it’s domestic abuse.”

If you don’t know someone at risk of domestic abuse or teen violence, then become an ambassador against this epidemic. Genesis Women’s Shelter offers several programs for community members to get involved with in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Events include the 10th Annual Make The Break Run on Oct. 4 and the 24th Annual Genesis Golf Classic on Oct. 6.

“We try to make all of our events a good price point so the entire family can come,” Sears said. “If you’re not participating in our fun run, you can also go to Dallas Men Against Abuse’s Father & Son Pancake Breakfast on Oct. 4.”

Preventing The Cycle Of Abuse

Another step in ending this cyclical epidemic is discussing violence with your children. “Tell your son that hands are not for hitting and words are not for hurting,” Sears said. “And always model respect in your home. 

Sears says that simple steps, like encouraging your son not to demean girls in the locker room, can make a huge difference in his perception of women.  Also, remind your son that abuse is not due to women’s behavior.

“There’s a paradigm shift that needs to happen,’ Sears said. “It is not about a women’s behavior. It’s not about how a women dresses. No one deserves to be abused.”

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