If there’s one central message that Mary Riedel, the CEO of a prominent shelter and advocacy program in Broward County, imparts to her audience in a recent interview, it is this: “Domestic violence has no one face.”
In stating that, Riedel is centering in on what she says is a primary misconception about violence and abuse, namely, that people commonly stereotype most aspects of it. As example, she notes the oft-cited observation of many that most women — and even some men — who are abused are overly passive, often of limited economic means, have little formal education and are simply not smart enough to leave.
In fact, Riedel notes, domestic violence pervades every corner of American society, as well as every socioeconomic and cultural background. Moreover, it goes far beyond mere physical acts of harm to encompass many other forms of violence that hurt, demean and diminish a victim’s self esteem, such as sexual, verbal, financial and emotional abuse.
Riedel’s organization — Women in Distress — stresses public awareness and education to combat the syndrome of domestic abuse and to take it out from behind closed doors.
“It’s a public safety issue, a family issue, a community issue, and we need to have greater awareness and more dialogue about it,” she says.
Women in Distress is one of 42 domestic violence centers in Florida. Riedel says her staff is responding to an increasing number of abuse incidents presently, and points to the current economic malaise as a predominant factor contributing to that, with the recession putting strong pressures on many families.
Despite the upsurge, she is positive, especially about the turn-about effects many victims and their families realize when they know that help is available and seek it.
“It’s amazing to see the remarkable progress that victims can make, and that their children can make in just a few weeks,” she says.
Related Resource: Sun-Sentinel, “Issue: Lack of awareness still a problem in addressing cycle of domestic violence” July 20, 2011