October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and, since 1979, the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County (WSP) has been serving survivors of domestic violence — also called intimate partner violence, or IPV — and their children. Last year alone, WSP and our sister organization, RISE, served almost 1,700 IPV survivors right here in SLO County.
IPV is a pattern of abusive and controlling behavior by a spouse, partner or ex that can include emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse. IPV affects people regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, income or education level.
Society often blames this violence on the victim. People ask, “Why doesn’t the victim just leave?” instead of asking, “What makes the abuser use violence?”
Using violence is a choice. Abusers use mind games, threats, promises and apologies to control their victims. They intentionally isolate victims from friends and family, often with such sentiments as “They don’t love you as much as I do.”
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People surviving a violent relationship are all too aware of the dangers they face when they leave. Knowing their partner’s history of violence, they must take seriously threats that if they leave, they or their family will be further harmed or even killed. (And they’re smart to think this way: Studies show the most dangerous time in a violent relationship is when the victim is leaving). Survivors also fear economic instability, losing child custody, and they often — due to the aforementioned isolation — feel they don’t have anywhere to go.
Here in SLO County, there is a place to go. If you or someone you know are struggling with IPV, call the Women’s Shelter Program confidentially at 805-781-6400. We provide a range of services, from counseling for adults and children, Latinx-specific programming, legal assistance, and more.
It is time to stand up as a community and say that we will not tolerate this violence, and that a peaceful community is possible. Please join our candlelight vigil on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 6 p.m. at Mission Plaza in SLO to honor those whose lives were lost to IPV this year. The vigil is a collaboration between WSP, RISE and Cal Poly’s Safer office.
And, on Oct. 29 at 4:15 p.m. at The Palm Theater, come see the award-winning documentary, “Private Violence,” followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker. The film explores the disturbing fact that the most dangerous place for a woman in America is in her own home. Every day in the U.S., at least four women are murdered by abusive (and often, ex) partners.
Join us in October, and beyond. We will work together to end IPV.
Learn more at www.wspslo.org.
Kirsten Rambo is executive director of the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County. She has 20 years of experience in the field of intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender-based violence, and she holds a Ph.D. in women’s studies from Emory University.