When a crowd of volunteers, supporters and survivors set off from Diamond Park for the 12th Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Walk on Monday, they will head south from Diamond Park, take a right on Park Avenue, walk towards the north on Park, then back. to the starting point in front of the City Building.
When completed, participants will have walked exactly 1 mile, said Patti Prince, the women’s services shelter manager who runs the event each year, and the message to those who walk as well as those who seem to pass them – or read in the newspaper, or hear about it from friends – will be clear.
“What would you do,” said Prince, “if you had to walk a mile in their shoes?”
The event will also provide possible answers, courses of action and resources to help victims of domestic violence. Women’s Services Inc. is the only domestic violence shelter in all of Crawford County, Prince pointed out in an interview this week, and one of its goals as Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins each October is to remind people of the resources available in the county and how they can help those affected.
While domestic violence may seem distant to some and is too often overlooked by others, Domestic Violence Awareness Month creates an opportunity to show members of the community how they can be more aware, what it to watch out for, what to say to people dealing with domestic violence issues. , and generally how they can help, according to Prince.
Increased awareness through annual reminders can only help as the potential for domestic violence is a frequent concern for the Meadville Police Department.
“We regularly respond to domestic disputes,” said chef Michael Tautin. “Not all of them involve violence, but we respond to a lot.”
Domestic disputes remained a constant concern throughout Tautin’s 22 years with the department.
“Answering servants is unfortunately part of the job,” he noted.
Fortunately for victims of domestic violence, responding to such incidents is also part of the routine of Women’s Services. In fact, Rob Francis, prevention educator and volunteer coordinator, said all staff members have counsel counsel as part of their job title.
This is part of the message for volunteers who undergo extensive training to help with agency responses. Francis was working with a group of five such volunteers, made up of retirees and students, this week.
Once formed, Francis said, the group will join others who will help with virtually every aspect of the agency’s work – work that ranges from cleaning and helping with childcare to sheltering help. to educational programs in local schools; and to handling crisis situations reported through the Women’s Helplines, available at (814) 333-9766 and (888) 881-0189.
“Our volunteers are really a vital part of our operation here, and we always have great ones,” Francis said. “People who come here want to help. They want to make things better for their community and we really strive to help them do that.
Katie Perez, a junior from Allegheny College, is part of the current cohort of volunteers taking 40 hours of training that runs from September to November. Like Francis, she will be part of the crowd that gathers in Diamond Park at 4:30 p.m. Monday to listen to survivors’ stories and hear remarks from other speakers before the group takes to the streets.
“I think it’s important because I feel like this issue isn’t really being addressed. It is, but not to that extent, and it’s often avoided when it comes to young children and teenagers,” Perez said. “Women’s Services does a really good job of making sure this training is taught well – it’s really informative and it brings to light things you might not necessarily think of and they do it in a way that creates a safe environment.”
Monday’s mile-long march reinforces that goal of bringing to light issues that too often remain in the dark.
“A lot of people still have the ‘what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors’ attitude, and it’s not like that anymore,” Prince said, pointing to an increased willingness among men to tackle cases of domestic violence and a growing awareness in the LGBT community. “People need to realize that it’s not just affecting women anymore. It’s everyone’s business.
And while attendees won’t literally walk in the shoes of survivors, real shoes will help promote the message of the event. Prince will be sporting a “great pair of new tennis shoes.
“They say, ‘Domestic violence is strong,'” she explained.