Throughout the country, a woman is physically or sexually abused every nine seconds, according to statistics from the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence — and that pattern isn’t postponed during the holidays.
In fact, the season’s added stress often prompts a greater number of abused women to seek shelter, counseling and support.
Although the same spouses and partners who are abusive during the holidays will also be abusive at other times of the year, say TCADSV officials, the reported cases of domestic and sexual violence seem to increase each year beginning in late September.
But thanks to facilities like Tennessee Tech University’s Women’s Center, information about the recognition and prevention of such abuse is available virtually year-round.
"We sometimes get individuals who are able to approach us and come in to ask their questions, but more often, it’s a friend who’s asking what options are available," said Gretta Stanger, director of the Women’s Center and interim chairperson of TTU’s sociology and philosophy department.
That’s because the ways an abuser tries to maintain control in such a relationship, she said, continually diminishes the abused individual’s self-esteem. Common traits of abusers include:
• Embarrassing or making fun of their partners in front of friends and family members.
• Making their partners feel they are unable to make their own decisions.
• Blaming their partners for how they feel or act.
• Telling their partners jealousy is a sign of love.
• Putting down their partners’ family members and friends.
• Threatening suicide or threatening to harm their partners, partners’ family members or pets.
In addition to providing information about recognizing and preventing domestic and sexual violence, the university Women’s Center also provides information about support groups, counseling and family violence shelters like Cookeville’s Genesis House.
"We always have calling cards with the Genesis House phone numbers available on a table outside the office and flyers that detail all of the Genesis House programs and services," Stanger said.
The shelter, which served a total of 2,637 clients from the Upper Cumberland between July and October this year, offers a 24-hour crisis line, comprehensive sexual assault services, a continuum of housing from crisis to independent living arrangements, management plans and more.
"Additionally, to try to increase awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault (which some want to separate from domestic violence, but it shares many factors), we sponsor the Clothesline Project," Stanger said.
Held annually in April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the project allows women who have experienced domestic or sexual violence, rape, incest and abuse because of their sexual orientation to write or draw their stories on T-shirts that are displayed on campus.
For more information about the Women’s Center, domestic violence and sexual assault or other women’s issues, call the office at 931/372-3850 or log onto its web site at www.tntech.edu/women/.