By: Sylvia Acosta, Ph.D.
Domestic violence cannot be an issue on which only non-profit organizations focus. The responsibility of keeping families safe belongs to all of us. When women and children are abused, the ripple effect permeates all of our public, private and government institutions. According to The Nonprofit Partnership, the net loss annually from domestic and family violence is approximately $1.4 billion and the total cost of domestic and family violence in the United States exceeds $12 billion. The Ripple Effect, which focuses on public health approaches to domestic violence states that worldwide 1 in every 3 women has been beaten, raped or otherwise physically abused. Of these women, 60% are repeatedly abused. These statistics mirror what happens in the United States. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have been abused, raped or stalked. Statistics for children are staggering. The American Family Physician cites that an estimated 3.2 million children in the United States witness incidents of domestic violence annually. I bring this to the forefront because this is an issue that we must all take seriously.
I have personally known many women and children that have suffered at the hands of their abuser. I have heard their stories. Stories often shared in whispers about the abuse they suffered in relationships or as children at the hands of a loved one. Stories that haunt them in their adulthood and that carry an internal shame from which it is difficult to recover. Stories hidden in the darkness, spoken through glances or even told in the context of “well that’s the way it was back then.” The truth is the “back then” is happening now and every day. Those stories must come out from dark recesses of society and into the light.
On Thursday, October 17th, more than 400 men and boys in El Paso strapped on high heels and walked around Downtown El Paso to raise awareness of domestic violence. Approximately 1000 people made up of community leaders, families, and corporate sponsors participated in the event. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes began approximately 10 years ago and always falls during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and YWCA USA’s Week Without Violence. The event is loud, colorful and unapologetic. It is a moment in which domestic and family violence is taken out of the shadows and into the light. It is a moment in which our community gathers together to bring attention, discuss and stand united against the violence.
This year, participants raised over $189,000 for survivors. The money raised for that event is designated for the YWCA Sara McKnight Transitional Living Center. The center houses women and children who are escaping violence. They live there for up to 24 months and receive counseling, childcare, and a safe space in which to recover. For this we are so incredibly grateful. Grateful to each person who participated, who donated and who joined us in bringing this awful societal ill to the forefront.
YWCA El Paso stands with victims and will continue to advocate for them because it is our mission, our passion and our responsibility. It is time that as a community, we bring this hidden secret out of the shadows. It is time that together we stand, speak and act against domestic violence regardless of the stature of the abuser or the severity of the injuries. Domestic and family violence should not be tolerated by anyone or any institution in our community.