Helping those in a cycle of domestic violence

By: By Natalie Davis -

From July 2016 through June 2017, Anson County Domestic Violence Coalition had 373 reported domestic violence victims, according to Gail Dove, victim advocate at ACDVC.

Dove said that 314 of the victims were female and 59 were male. She also said that the age bracket with the highest number of victims is 26 through 40.

“Every nine seconds, a female is assaulted in the United States, and one in three women and one in four men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime,” she said. “I’m sure our numbers are much higher, but these are the numbers for the people we have worked with.”

Dove said that some signs of domestic violence include: when the victim seems afraid of their partner, or overly anxious to please them; the victim becomes more isolated, and visits, outings and phone conversations become shorter or stop; and their abuser may talk down to them in front of others.

She added that the victim may seem afraid to leave their kids with their abuser, and have physical injuries that they may give unlikely stories for.

“Relationships with domestic violence usually consist of verbal, emotional and physical abuse,” Dove said. “It is about power and control, and a lot of the time, the abuser also uses money to control his (or) her victim.”

“She may not be allowed to work, therefore she is financially dependent upon her abuser,” Dove said, giving an example. “The abuser usually is apologetic after the abuse, and next, there is a ‘honeymoon’ period when everything is calm and ‘normal.’”

Dove said that the victim may get a glimpse of the person they fell in love with, until the tensions start to build up again. That’s when the abuse comes, she said. This is the cycle of domestic violence.

Children who witness a domestic violence relationship, can develop serious physical and mental health problems, Dove said.

“They themselves may become abusers or victims, and they may become aggressive at school,”she said. “They may regress (bed-wetting, thumb sucking), but it really depends on their age.”

The ACDVC has brochures that may give more specific info on it.

Dove said that she became a part of ACDVC, when her former employer was scheduled to receive an award for his dedication in helping the ACDVC in 2012, and because of a prior obligation, she was asked to go in his place.

“At the ceremony, I heard a survivor tell her horrific story of abuse and escape, and it touched something deep inside of me and I started volunteering at the agency,” Dove said. “Later, a full-time position became available, and I was able to do what I have a passion for on a full time basis.”

Dove said that being a part of ACDVC is rewarding, frustrating, heart-breaking and faith-renewing.

“I hurt for the ones still trapped in the cycle of domestic violence and rejoice for the ones who made it out alive,” she said. “I get very frustrated, because people don’t believe it happens as often as it does here…until it directly affects them.”

She said that anyone can help, but working directly with victims requires specific training.

“The purpose of our agency is to assist those in domestic violence, to educate the public about domestic violence and sexual assault, and bring awareness about abuse in the community,” Dove said.

The ACDVC has two full-time advocates, Kimberly Liles and Dove, who mainly work directly with victims. They also have two part-time crisis intervention advocates and a director. The ACDVC provides court advocacy, hospital advocacy, financial counseling, one-on-one sessions with victims and emergency transportation. The coalition also has a 24-hour crisis line.

“For rape victims, the process at the hospital can take up to six hours, and we are there every minute with the victim,” Dove said. “We may have someone who has fled their abuser with nothing but what they can carry, and we can assist with some of the basics to help them start over, thanks to donations from community members.”

Dove said that she is also certified for the Address Confidentiality Program and can assist victims with that. She said that they also babysit, if needed, while a victim goes to court.

“There are lots of little things we do that most people are unaware of but make a huge difference to a victim,” Dove said. “Kimberly and I also set up an information table at different schools each week, with brochures and information about (domestic violence) and (sexual assault), so no matter what time someone needs us, we are there.”

Dove said that the best way for members in the community to help is to help is to support the agency, whether it is through volunteering, donations or just showing up at the events.

The agency’s biggest obstacle is that they do not have the backing of the community that other agencies and organizations have, Dove said.

She also lamented the lack of attendance at last month’s vigil.

“In my opinion, it’s because what we deal with is not fun, pretty or something that makes people happy — but domestic violence and sexual assault are not pretty,” she said. “We can’t go on social media and put up pictures of the people we help, and we can’t show the public the black eyes and broken bones.”

Dove said that the ACDVC has several events throughout the year to help raise money and awareness, including a barbecue sale the last Friday of February, and a purple ribbon campaign, where they send out letters to area businesses asking for sponsorships.

Around Father’s Day, they host a “Men For Change” fundraiser, where they ask men in the community to be a part of a committee that goes out and asks other men to donate money as a way of speaking up and taking a stand against domestic violence. “

During our Men for Change campaign, we usually print the donors’ names in the paper, and you would be surprised at the people who don’t want their names associated with supporting our agency,” Dove said. “It’s not that they don’t want recognition because they have been recognized publicly by other organizations for their contributions — but they don’t want their name or company associated with domestic violence.”

Dove said that she just wants everyone to know that domestic violence is real and it is happening in this community’s own backyards, and that the community can’t keep ignoring it and hope it goes away. She also said that domestic violence and sexual assault are a community problem, and that everyone can make a difference — but it has to be acknowledged before it can be addressed.

“If you see something, say something,” Dove said. “We invite anyone who wants to help, volunteer or just wants information on what we do to come to our office, and we will be glad to talk to them at any time.”

The ACDVC is located at the back of Calvary Episcopal Church, 308 E. Wade St.

Reach Natalie Davis at 704-994-5471.

By Natalie Davis