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Domestic Violence Solutions Reaches Out to Raise Awareness

Domestic violence tends to rise as economic times get tougher, and a local group steps up to fight the trend.

Times are tough for many people these days, so to reach out to couples and families undergoing a lot of stress, Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County invites the public to several events to raise awareness of this often insidious crime.

“Most people don’t realize this, but when we have difficult financial times what happens is the rate of domestic violence goes up,” said Beverly Engel, executive director of DVS. October also happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to DVS, domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes. It is predicted that one in three women will at some point in her life experience violence from her partner. It happens to men, too, but the vast majority of victims are female.

One of the reasons more women aren’t running out to report an abusive partner, Engel said, is because typically by the time the relationship progresses toward physical violence, a lot of emotional abuse has been going on.

“The purpose of emotional abuse is to control another human being and to keep them down,” Engel said. Behaviors of this type include constant fault-finding, attempts at isolating victims from family and larger social circles, demeaning language, and trying to control how victims spend their time and money. After months and years of that kind of treatment, the victim is often too off-balance to report the crime before the first blow has landed, she said.

Another problem is that for many women, especially teenagers having their first relationships, some of these behaviors — jealousy, possessiveness and insecurity — look and sound a lot like love and passion. It can be that hard to tell.

Of course, to be able to reach out and support people, mostly women of lower economic status, who are fleeing an abusive relationship, the organization must raise money. But DVS is not immune to the economic pressures that are affecting the rest of the nation

“We run mostly on donor contributions,” Engel said. “We’re going to have to call upon the community to help us out.”

To help make the public aware of the shelter, counseling and other intervention services it has and to raise funds, DVS will hold a series of events in Santa Barbara County.

On Sunday, DVS will be hold its High “Esteem” Tea at the Biltmore, 1260 Channel Drive in Santa Barbara. At the 4 p.m. tea, Engel will present her new book, “The Nice Girl Syndrome.”

On Oct. 14, the organization will screen the New Zealand film “Once Were Warriors” about a native family struggling within an abusive relationship. There will be a post-film discussion about domestic violence in the cultural context.

On Oct. 23, the organization will hold a fundraising dinner at the Santa Maria Country Club, 505 W. Waller Lane in Santa Maria. Guests will be served by local “celebrity waiters.”

The point of the events is not only to make people aware that domestic violence exists but also to learn to recognize the patterns that could lead to an abusive relationship, Engel said.

To find out more about DVS, its services, events and how to help, click here to visit its Web site.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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