Vigil memorializes domestic violence victims

A vigil at the YWCA in Grand Rapids on the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Oct. 1, 2014)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On average, 47 women in Michigan are killed each year as a result of domestic violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States. Wednesday, the YWCA in Grand Rapids held a candlelight vigil to help raise awareness.

“There are many forms of battering,” said Carla Blinkhorn, the CEO of YWCA in Grand Rapids. “Physical abuse is one form of battering, but there is also emotional abuse, financial abuse and other ways somebody can be trapped in a relationship.”

Domestic violence in America has taken center stage after video surfaced of former Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice punching and knocking out his now-wife in an elevator.

While the incident has encouraged the national conversation on domestic violence, it has not actually increased the number of calls for help the YWCA has seen.

“In his situation, he’s potentially lost his job for life and there is always anxiety on the part of somebody that is being battered on what the repercussions might be,” Blinkhorn said. “If he goes to jail, if he loses his job — any number of other things. There may be situations where that particular story might have caused somebody to pause rather than actually calling.”

The vigil Wednesday was largely focused on women. A gong sounded every 15 seconds, representing how often a woman in America is beaten by a man.

A whistle went of every minute, signifying how often a woman is raped by a man. And a bell sounded for the three to four women who are murdered each day by an intimate partner.

“Often times, people don’t know how to respond when you talk about domestic violence, particularly if it extends over a period of time. So it’s important to have people that really understand the issues, that really understand the community resources that might be available. And that’s why we encourage people to call us,” Blinkhorn said.

Blinkhorn said the number one reason victims of domestic abuse don’t step forward fear.

“The reality is the time you are most vulnerable is when the relationship is ending,” she explained. “That’s when you are most likely to be harmed physically in a very severe way and also to be killed.”

The YWCA said it isn’t just women who are hurt by domestic violence.

“The vast majority of domestic violence survivors are women, but certainly there are men that are domestic violence survivors and it’s important for us to get the word out to them. It seems to be more challenging for them to come in for help,” Blinkhorn said. “A whole identity of who you are as a male makes it more difficult to come forward and say you have been battered.”

The YWCA in Grand Rapids does have resources set up to help both men and women who are victims of domestic abuse.

The YWCA has a crisis line, transitional housing support, crisis counseling and therapy available for both men and women. It also has an emergency shelter for women.

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Resources:

YWCA of West Central Michigan

24-hour confidential crisis line: 616.451.2744

YWCA of Kalamazoo

24- hour domestic violence hotline: 269.385.3587 

24- hour sexual assault hotline: 269.385.3587

Safe Haven Ministries

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