Southsider Voice correspondent
A local community services director is optimistic that awareness of domestic violence and abuse is being raised due to recent National Football League publicity.
Stephanie Cunningham, community services director of Turning Point, weighed in recently on domestic violence at a Greenwood meeting and on safe dating with eighth-graders at Greenwood Middle School.
“If you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse, you are not the only one,” Cunningham said to an adult group last week.
Cunningham also discussed the recent actions of NFL star running back Ray Rice and wife Janay and the original and latent punishments by the NFL.
“I hope people aren’t saying she deserved this,” Cunningham said. “There are multiple reasons why a victim would stay in that type of relationship. He chose to do this; they each need help, they need intervention.”
Cunningham was among the critics who questioned the NFL’s original discipline of Rice for a two-game suspension until videotape of him knocking out Janay, his then-finance, incident emerged, which led to his indefinite suspension.
“Missing only two games?” Cunningham said. “It was huge to finally see the full consequences. People are not sweeping this under the rug.”
Turning Point offers emergency shelters and outreach, advocacy and education programs.
In Johnson County in 2013, Turning Point figures show 159 nightly stays at the shelter, which served 168 families. An educational program featured 74 presentations in front of 612 patrons. In its six-county area, Turning Point served 899 families, where mostly women suffered from abuse, for a total of 4,757 nights in shelters.
Cunningham, who noted that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, reported that only 4 to 6 percent of victims will ever enter a shelter and added that 1-in-4 women and 1-in-3 teens will experience some form of violent abuse.
“You can be in an abusive relationship without experiencing physical abuse,” she emphasized.
Cunningham explained in all cases of domestic violence one partner exerts power and control and that the violence consists of multiple incidents. Abusers use fear, love and manipulation to control victims, she said. Domestic abuse can range from sexual, psychological and/or financial abuse.
“Victims of abuse face multiple barriers to leaving, especially when children are involved,” Cunningham said. “Most victims (Turning Point clients) continue to express love for their partner.”
She revealed that 58.5 percent of clients reported domestic violence to police and that 47.6 percent of clients witnessed domestic violence as a child.
Cunningham urged anyone who has a friend who tells them they are a victim of domestic abuse to listen to that victim, be supportive, make no judgments and urge them not to become isolated.
Cunningham said she firmly believes in the need to reach students in middle school health and/or family sciences classes before they enter high school.
“No means no,” she said of her message to eighth-graders. “I hope they never go through what my clients are going through so that they don’t become future clients. That’s what I am passionate about preventing.”
She made her remarks at a recent meeting of the Greenwood United Methodist Women.
Turning Point’s annual report will be revealed at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at Franklin College in the JFCA Henderson Conference Room.
Where to get help
In Johnson County contact Turning Point 24/7 at 1-800-221-6311. In Marion County contact Beacon of Hope Center for Women at 731-6131, Julian Center at 920-9320 or Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-800-332-7385.