Stopping the Madness



Roberto Gonzalez

A disease has reached epidemic proportions in Orange County. It’s known by many names, including domestic violence, relationship abuse, intimate partner violence. But no matter which term you choose, it’s a malady that scars and kills.

Last year in Orange County, there were 25 deaths related to domestic violence, 11 of those in one month. Domestic violence calls to 911 numbered more than 8,700; Harbor House of Central Florida, which provides shelter and prevention programs, served more than 6,000 victims face to face, plus thousands of others through its hotline. A total of 1,128 survivors, including victims’ children, resided in emergency shelters. Currently, injunctions against abusers are running at a clip of 200 filed a week, a 35 percent increase over last year, says Harbor House CEO Carol Wick, whose nonprofit group helps victims navigate the process.

Have we lost our minds? Or have we simply come to see domestic violence as somehow acceptable, just like we viewed drunk driving a few decades ago? Whatever the case, we need to rid ourselves of the stereotypical vision of an abuse victim—the lower-income mom with kids living in a high-crime neighborhood. While some do fit that description, a person enduring abuse could just as well be a doctor, a lawyer, a fellow churchgoer, a student—even a sister or daughter.

Ninety percent of domestic violence victims are women, and the downward spiral can start innocently enough. “The whole idea of love at first sight may in fact be one of the primary warning signs that you’re headed for an abusive relationship,’’ Wick says.  “It’s that attention, that very quick, very intense relationship that sweeps you off your feet.’’ The pair might start living together, but then the abuser starts controlling the partner’s movements, her friendships, her finances. Yet when the first punch comes, Wick says, the victim is often taken by surprise and might feel at fault because the relationship didn’t seem that bad. “They may be very ashamed this has happened, and they keep it quiet.’’

Wick and others are working to change that by encouraging people to be “active bystanders” who can help the victims when they can’t, or won’t, help themselves. “We don’t want people to just know what abuse is,’’ she says. “We want them to know that it’s okay to act.’’ Bystanders, like the victims, can call the Harbor House hotline at 407-886-2856. The organization also has developed an app called R3; it features a four-question screening tool that Wick says is 90 percent effective in identifying someone in  an abusive relationship. It also has a ZIP code listing of every domestic violence intervention provider in the country.

And there’s another hopeful sign. Orange County’s government-appointed Domestic Violence Commission, a panel that Wick serves on, recently came up with a host of recommendations that are about to be implemented, from providing more advocates to guide and counsel victims, to fixing a system in which 95 percent of those arrested for domestic violence suffer no consequences.

How can you lend immediate support? Harbor House is holding its annual Purple Door Luncheon at noon on October 11 at SeaWorld’s Ports of Call (go to harborhousefl.com to register). Guest speaker at the fundraiser will be Sharon Love, mother of Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia student murdered in 2010 by a former boyfriend. Love and her daughter Lexie established the One Love Foundation after Yeardley’s death with the mission of ending relationship violence through education and digital technology, with the effort targeted primarily at women ages 16 to 24. “We’re hoping to shine a light and say this is not okay so that society will stand up against domestic violence in the same way MADD did against drunk driving,’’ Love says.

Certainly, the battle is difficult. But with leaders like Wick, Love and the domestic violence panel keeping the issue at the forefront, perhaps the day is approaching soon when we refuse to turn a blind eye to something as abhorrent as domestic violence—and as a society are touched by the better angels of our nature.

BARRY GLENN
barry.glenn@orlandomagazine.com

Edit Module
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Guides & Resources

Top Doctors 2016

The Annual List of the Top Doctors in Orlando.

Best Doctors 2016

The Annual List of the Best Doctors in Orlando.

Vacation Planner

Your next getaway is only a click away. Search our database for a great vacation experience.

2016 Premier Veterinarians

2016 Pet Resource Guide

Check out our searchable 2016 list of some of the best pet resources in the Orlando area.

Premier Realtors

Check out our 2016 searchable database of Orlando's premier realtors.

Orlando's Best Lawyers 2016

Our annual list includes hundreds of Orlando-area attorneys in dozens of areas of practice.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

6 Design Ideas for a Festive, Sun-Drenched White Christmas

With these design tips, bring the white Christmas inside this year.

Weekend Happenings in Orlando Dec 2 to 4

Know what's happening in and around Orlando for the weekend.

Let's Hear It for a Crowd

Eric Jacobsen and the Orlando Philharmonic will play a world premiere work of Lisa Bielawa, who finds artistry amid the noise.

The Quick and Easy Decorating Guide to Holiday Greens, Wreaths and Pine Cones

Weekend Happenings in Orlando Nov 25 to 27

Find what's happening in and around Orlando for the weekend.
Edit Module