Domestic violence brought to forefront in October
By Eileen Persike
Domestic violence is one of those topics that can be difficult to talk about. The subject is avoided between friends, swept under the rug, ignored. But for the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, victim advocates want to bring it front and center.
“It’s so important to me to really normalize this conversation,” said Vicky Tosi, domestic violence coordinator at Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Rhinelander.
Films and social media, she added, make the act of violence and the degradation of women acceptable.
“Unfortunately, the fact that it happens has been normalized, but talking about it and getting help and looking at why it happens is what is so taboo to talk about,” Tosi said.
In her more than seven years of working to help victims of domestic violence, Tosi said she is seeing positive changes. More advocacy organizations and getting more referrals from health care professionals and law enforcement agencies are helping to point people in the direction of help. Tri-County Council is the designated agency for Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties to provide advocacy services and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“There are still people in the community who don’t know we exist or what we do,” Tosi said. “So this is a great opportunity for us as an agency during domestic violence awareness month to get out there and show our faces and let people know we are here and what we do.”
One area where she would like to see improvement is in education and prevention programs for children.
“Something I had witnessed, a middle school child, in the midst of a domestic violence incident, they had no reaction at all,” Tosi recalled. “There was no fear, there was no anxiety – that I could see – because this was normal for them in their household. Now, this child is walking around in constant fight-or-flight mode, even when things aren’t happening. So where does a kid go for help?”
When she was in high school, Tosi said she and her first boyfriend would get suspended for physically fighting; something she realizes now could have been prevented with education.
“I don’t know where in my life I got the message that this was okay,” Tosi said. “I think it’s really important to educate young kids about what a healthy relationship looks like and what an abusive relationship looks like. I feel that is where we could really make a difference.”
Several events are planned this month to raise awareness of on-going crimes, to focus on justice for the perpetrators and to show victims they are not alone.
Saturday, Oct. 16: “The Shoe Project,” at Pioneer Park. An art installation representing the 2020 victims of domestic violence in Wisconsin.
Saturday, Oct. 23: Chalk Walk, 2-4 p.m., Davenport and Brown streets.
Friday, Oct. 29: “Remember My Name” candlelight vigil 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the Oneida County Courthouse; remembering the 2020 victims of domestic violence in Wisconsin.