By Mike Bassett, ASC Public AffairsOctober 7, 2016
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - Approximately 75 RIA Soldiers and civilians marched from Memorial Park to the Post Exchange loudly chanting "It's never okay! It's never alright! Raise your voice and join the fight!" here, Oct. 6.
The "Join the Fight" march was sponsored and hosted by Col. Kenneth Tauke, RIA garrison commander; Samantha Mathew, victim's advocate, RIA's Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy Program; and Jenny Kerr, program manager, RIA's Family Advocacy Program; in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Proceeding along Rodman Avenue from Memorial Park, personnel joined the ranks of the march as it progressed toward the PX. Many were donned in purple, the color designated to symbolize "the hope for a non-violent, safe tomorrow for survivors of domestic violence and tears for the victims of domestic violence who have not survived to see tomorrow," according to a SafePath Survivor Resources flyer distributed at the event.
The flyer indicated jealousy, possessiveness, isolation, control, sexual pressure, substance abuse pressure, and violence as several-of-many domestic violence warning signs. The Victim Advocacy Program website divides abuse into five categories: Physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and financial abuse.
Mathew said the initiative has grown each year here since it started three years ago. The Family Advocacy and Victim's Advocacy programs are designed to foster and expand a victim-enabling, pro-intervention zone within the community.
"The most challenging thing is not being able to change a victim's circumstances," said Mathew. They may choose to stay even when it's not the best idea.
"Raising awareness gives victims confidence that there's a support system established for them in their time of need, because the hardest part for victims is gathering the strength and courage to admit -- and report -- being abused, said Mathew. This is where our program comes in; we have an established plan to intervene and assist from the moment a report is made."
Purple water bottles with printed tweets inside were handed out to participants during the march. One of the tweets -- which was re-tweeted more than 100 times -- that was included inside the purple water bottle stated; "#whyistayed I promised to give him 5 years after he hit me the first time #WhyIleft My daughter tried to kill herself when she was 4."
Another such printed tweet stated, "He told me I was worthless, couldn't do any better. Taken me 25 years to unlearn that [sic]. #WhyIStayed."
When the march concluded, Mathew discussed services for victims and read the poem "I Got Flowers Today." The Victim Advocacy Program offers confidential, restricted and non-restricted reporting (for Soldiers, when command is involved or not involved, respectively), highlighting victim safety as their main priority in the reporting process.
Victims' advocates provide services such as crisis intervention and support, safety plans, emergency services -- such as transportation, housing, and food -- a Transitional Compensation Program, medical and legal support, and assistance with protective orders.
Following Mathew's, Tauke asked the crowd, "How many of you know someone -- including yourself -- who has been a victim of domestic violence?" After all participants raised their hands, Tauke continued; "This shows the seriousness of the problem. This is why it's so vital that we raise awareness of services available to domestic violence victims.
"Let these purple bottles be your daily reminder throughout the whole year," Tauke said. "This issue can become an epidemic if we keep silent, and that's exactly what predators want us to do. Domestic violence awareness can't end today."
Mathew and Tauke encouraged victims to contact crisis services as soon as they're feeling abused, and expressed hope that the campaign will make them aware of services available to victims of domestic violence.
The Rock Island Arsenal Domestic Violence Crisis Line number is 309-912-6089. SafePath Survivor Resources Iowa Hotline number is 866-921-3354, and the Illinois Crisis line number is 309-797-1777. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 800-799-7233 / 800-787-3224 (TTY).