DEELY: Issue of domestic abuse often overshadowed

Opinion Column

Silke Deely

Silke Deely

Liberty House of Albany has been the primary source of safe shelter and services for victims of domestic and their children for the past 33 years. For the first time in 10 years of being the Director, our shelter has exceeded its ability to house all who are seeking asylum from abuse.

With a capacity of only 21 beds, we have had to purchase blowup mattresses to accommodate the overflow by placing at risk families in our play room. We have turned away families we could not accommodate and temporarily placed others in hotels until safe shelter could be found. The crisis of domestic violence continues and we are beyond full.

Overshadowed by so many other causes, Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes and goes each year with little notice, despite efforts by shelters to increase awareness and elicit community support. Perhaps you believe that this problem only happens to poor, uneducated souls in some third world country. Or that it couldn’t happen in your family, but it is happening right here in Albany, Ga., in your neighborhoods, maybe right next door.

Sixty three people have died as a result of domestic violence in Georgia, making us 10th of all the States for the highest number of domestic violence homicides. In Georgia, one in five women over 18 who is married or in a relationship, reports being emotionally or physically abused by a male partner.

Additionally, 1 in 4 teens report being intentionally harmed by their boyfriend or girlfriend. Children exposed to domestic violence are at high risk for developing mental health or substance abuse problems later in life. More men are reporting their victimization at the hands of women as violence is escalating. The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. We are all affected by violence in our community.

The issue of domestic violence is a complicated and potentially deadly. The longer it continues, the worse it becomes. The idea that it is a private matter, or that it is best to not get involved is the very thing that creates an environment ripe for homicides. Domestic violence does not occur in a vacuum and it is a matter of speaking up that could make the difference that saves a life and breaks the cycle.

If you suspect a friend or loved one is involved in an abusive relationship,

— Approach your friend in an understanding, non-blaming way. Acknowledge that you are afraid for them and that help is available.

— Refer them to the local domestic violence program.

— Inform your friend there is legal protection available.

— Make it your business to speak up and speak out about domestic violence. Give voice to those that may not speak up for themselves.

Silke Deely is director of Liberty House of Albany Inc. For more information, contact Liberty House of Albany, Inc, Crisis Line at (229) 439-7065.