October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Now is the time to use your voice and influence in the community. During this month of domestic violence awareness, I hope you will identify yourself and company as advocates for survivors.

October 22 is nationally known as Purple Thursday. This is a day to wear purple and share across social media to remind survivors that our community cares about their wellbeing. We must stand in solidarity against those who inflict harm.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence occurs when one person chooses to exert a pattern of power and control over someone in their family, household, or intimate relationship. Our mission at GreenHouse17 specifically responds to domestic violence in the context of intimate partner abuse.

Although pushing, shoving, and hitting are common, sometimes abusers gain complete control without ever using physical violence. The abuse can be mental, emotional, sexual, and financial.

It can be easy to miss the signs. Strangulation, for example, leaves few marks but can cause brain damage after only seconds. More survivors are telling us stories about how abusers are using new technology to control them—smart locks, video surveillance, changing passwords on bank accounts.

Never presume who may or may not abuse. Intimate partner abuse happens across age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, economic, and educational demographics.

How has the pandemic affected domestic violence?

Home isn’t always a safe place to isolate.

During this time of remote work, abusers are exerting control by using “social distancing” as means to further isolate survivors from supportive friends and family. A recent article from Cosmopolitan magazine shared many stories of survivors caught in a cycle of abuse during coronavirus isolation. One survivor was forced to wash her hands over and over until they were raw and bleeding.

Abuse of power could also include forcing a survivor to leave the home and risk exposure.

Working from home is not a viable option for frontline and essential workers, many of whom are women, particularly women of color. This means risk for exposure to the virus at work, while threats of domestic violence loom at home.

We have been witness to these connections here in Kentucky. Although calls to our 24-hour hotline slowed at the beginning of the COVID-19 response, the frequency and severity of crisis calls have increased steadily over the past few months.

What does GreenHouse17 do?

GreenHouse17 helps people harmed by intimate partner abuse in 17 counties in central Kentucky. We provide a variety of services including:

  • 24-hour hotline
  • emergency shelter
  • legal advocacy
  • individual and group support
  • medical and dental treatment
  • budget and credit counseling
  • supportive housing services
  • transportation assistance

Our services are based in the trauma-informed care model. This means we honor that everyone responds to and heals from trauma in different ways. That includes being on our 40-acre farm that surrounds our emergency shelter.

Adults living in our shelter have the opportunity to participate on the farm, should they choose, in exchange for a small stipend. Growing flowers and fruits, vegetables and herbs while growing strong in body and mind. We also offer other out-of-the-box activities like yoga, journaling, and even ukulele lessons.

We serve survivors in Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Harrison, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Nicholas, Powell, Scott, and Woodford counties.

What can I do in the workplace?

Creating a safe workspace for victims and survivors is most important. Talking about domestic violence is one way to do this. It might be difficult to begin the dialogue at first, but being direct always works.

Sharing our mission with your colleagues and business is an easy way to begin the conversation.

Put the topic on your meeting agenda.

Say the words, “Let’s talk about domestic violence today.” If someone reveals they are being abused, believe the stories they tell you. Avoid saying what you would do. Instead, say you are really worried about their safety and ask if they have a safety plan.

Keep our 24-hour hotline number handy, so you can share when needed. That number is 800-544-2022. Many safety plans suggest creating code words that a friend or coworker can text or say to ask for help. For example, “pineapple” could mean to call the police or “apple” to come over.

Inquire if your company has a domestic violence in the workplace policy. If not, this would be a good time to begin creating these processes. If you already have a policy and process in place, read through the document to check if it’s survivor-centered. We would be happy to help with this review.

Low-wages, lack of paid sick leave, and costly health benefits make it difficult to flee abuse and begin to heal. Black and brown survivors must navigate even more barriers to leaving. Being an ally in the workplace for women and workers of color is particularly important when it comes to advocating against intimate partner abuse.

How can I help this month and beyond?

Wearing purple on October 22 is one way to support our mission. You can find out more about our activities throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month on our website and across all of our social media channels. We also offer seasonal group volunteer projects for small and large corporate teams, and will be asking for the community support for a holiday gift drive later in the year.

About the Author: Reena Martin is the Community Relations Manager at GreenHouse17. Graduate of Berea College, she has a passion for the nonprofit sector. Particularly, Reena believes in building community relationships and awareness about intimate partner abuse in central Kentucky.

GreenHouse17 is an advocacy agency committed to ending intimate partner abuse in families and the community. They offer a 24-hour crisis counseling hotline, an emergency shelter situated on a beautiful 40-acre property in rural Fayette County, and many additional services.


Featured photo by Priscilla Du Preez for Unsplash.