In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Services in Hermiston is conducting a number of trainings this month, including instruction for those who wish to volunteer on the organization’s 24-hour crisis line.

Executive Director Kathryn Chaney said the organization has also been active in community outreach efforts, particularly with local schools.

“We talk a lot with younger people about how to gauge the safety of a relationship,” Chaney said. “We talk with them about how to recognize the signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship.”

Observed during the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month grew out of the first Day of Unity in 1981, established by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. According to the organization’s website, the “intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children.” The Day of Unity quickly became a week when a variety of activities were held at local, state and national levels, eventually developing into the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October 1987.

Chaney said Domestic Violence Services has an additional facility in Pendleton, and between the two, they serve Morrow and Umatilla counties. DVS provides 24-hour crisis intervention, shelter and support groups among other services. Chaney indicated abuse can take on various forms that many victims may not initially recognize as a problem.

“One thing that really stands out as an indicator of a problem is intense, irrational jealousy,” Chaney said. “Some people may think that it means the other person really loves me. That’s not love — that’s control. Another red flag for any age group is stalking. In any age relationship, if a person is tracking, following or calling all the time and constantly trying to get attention from the person, that’s a huge red flag.”

Chaney said domestic abuse can start off as seemingly benign in nature. Psychological and emotional abuse can begin early in a relationship with behavior that may not necessarily be violent but can be just as damaging to a person’s self-worth, identity and self respect.

“A lot of times when we think of domestic violence we think of someone getting hit,” Chaney said. “Often the psychological abuse can leave people crippled. It often starts off in a subtle way with emotional abuse. The put downs, insults, constant criticism or questioning the persons competency. All those things are really damaging. It can be devastating.”

Chaney said Domestic Violence Awareness Month serves to raise awareness of a problem that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, affects one in four women in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, up to 6 million women are victims of domestic violence every year in this country, and 3 million children will witness it in some form. Bureau of Justice statistics state more than three women and one man are murdered every day in the United States by their intimate partner. Chaney said raising awareness through efforts like Domestic Violence Awareness Month is critical to calling attention to the issue.

“Getting people’s attention is vital. Sometimes people are in an abusive situation and don’t know that it’s not normal,” Chaney said. “What we try to tell people is that with domestic abuse it’s about power and control. It’s not about love or jealousy or anger or any of those excuses. Those are tactics used by perpetrators that we talk to people of all ages about in recognizing an abusive personality.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer with Domestic Violence Services in Hermiston should call 541-567-0424. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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