Group fights domestic violence

By Dave Gomez

A woman is beaten every five seconds in the United States, making domestic violence the most common reason women ages 15 to 44 go to the emergency room, according to the American Medical Association.

Throughout October, Safe Passage, DeKalb County’s sexual assault and domestic violence agency, will raise awareness about the issue with several free events as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The monthlong series kicked off Sunday at Borders Books Music & Cafe, 2520 Sycamore Road, where Judith Strasser, author of “Black Eye: Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life,” read excerpts from the book about her marriage to an abusive husband and her decision to leave.

Today, Safe Passage and the DeKalb Area Women’s Center will hold a community candlelight vigil titled “Breaking the Silence.”

The vigil will honor the memory of domestic violence victims who have lost their lives and recognize survivors, said Cynthia Folgate, volunteer and community events coordinator for Safe Passage.

Strasser and two other domestic abuse survivors will speak at the vigil.

NIU and Safe Passage also will sponsor a visit from Jackson Katz, an educator and speaker on interpersonal violence.

Katz will speak to NIU athletes and hold free forums on men and the fight against sexism and violence against women.

The first forum will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Carl Sandburg Auditorium and is open to all social service professionals.

The second will be open to the public at 7 p.m. the same day in the Duke Ellington Ballroom.

Folgate said the goal of the month is to tell victims support is available.

“There is help available; you don’t have to be alone,” Folgate said. “If you are a victim of domestic abuse, there is help available at Northern [and] with us.”

Both Valley West Community Hospital and Kishwaukee Community Hospital call Safe Passage if caregivers think a patient might be a domestic violence or sexual assault victim, Folgate said.

Folgate said because many victims remain silent, it is difficult to determine if domestic violence is on the rise.

“So many people go, ‘I didn’t know you existed,’” Folgate said. “More and more people are knowing we’re here, so they’re calling us more.”

The agency formed in 1980 after a group of DeKalb County residents realized there was no specific place to assist domestic violence victims, Folgate said.

The agency has grown from 12 staff members in 1992 to 30 today.

It offers a multitude of services, including counseling, prevention programs and temporary housing for victims and their families.

Safe Passage also offers a legal advocacy program to help victims understand their rights under the law.

For more information on Safe Passage or domestic violence, call 756-5228.

The “Breaking the Silence” candlelight vigil will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, 1021 State St.