1 in 4 women abused in lifetime

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Each October, the spotlight is focused on an ugly reality – domestic violence.

Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence show that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime; that an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year; and that most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police and most victims never seek help.

Those are statistics to which Deborah Hooks, the executive director of the women and children’s shelter Opportunity House, can attest.

“It’s alarming is what it is,” Hooks said. “It’s sad; it’s heartbreaking; and it’s real.”

Located in Opp, Opportunity House, Inc., is a domestic violence program that serves Covington, Conecuh and Monroe counties, providing help to families while they are in the shelter, as well as when they leave to start new lives.

It provides benefits such as court services, transportation assistance, referrals to other agencies and counseling, Hooks said.

“There’s really no way to tell what all it is that we do at Opportunity House,” she said. “But our numbers show that each of those services are greatly needed.”

Hooks said 200 women and children received services through OH.

“So many women who are victims of domestic violence don’t think they can make it on their own,” she said. “We try to give them the confidence and the tools they need to succeed. Oftentimes, though, the woman decides to go back to their abuser, and that is alarming.

“For us locally, the domestic incident in Evergreen should serve as a reminder about how the situations can turn deadly,” she said, speaking of the recent incident in which 35-year-old Randy Etheridge strangled his wife, Whitney, with a cord before committing suicide.

“She never received services from (Opportunity House),” Hooks said. “Her aunt called the shelter the other day and said the family never had a clue about the abuse, which had been going on for years. She never told anyone. That day she tried to leave, and he killed her. If that doesn’t make domestic violence real, I don’t know what will.”

Hooks said the majority of the domestic violence victims never seek help.

“There is such a stigma attached to domestic violence,” she said. “Victims think that people will look down on them for being a victim, when in actuality, people will look at them as the survivor they are after they seek the help they need.

“For the women out there, I want them to ask themselves these questions,” she said. “Does your partner degrade you in front of your children or others? Does your partner push or shove you? Does your partner keep you isolated from your family and friends?

“If you answered ‘yes’ to any one of those questions, you are a victim of domestic violence,” she said. Opportunity House is an agency of the Covington County United Fund.

For more information about Opportunity House, call 334-493-4835.