Shining a Light on a Hidden Epidemic in Plain Sight

On a typical day in the U.S., domestic violence hotlines across America receive 20,000 phone calls. Three or four people are murdered by an intimate partner each day. On any given day, 20 to 40 restraining orders are in effect in Wayland and Sudbury. Since Lauren Dunne Astley’s death in Wayland in 2011, at least 60 more girls and women in Massachusetts have been murdered by their partners.

October is the thirtieth anniversary of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which raises awareness of the lethal actions that largely involve male violence against females. First Parish in Wayland and Community United Methodist Church of Wayland are working together to shine a light on the issue and to promote solutions. To this end, a purple light will shine on the façade of each church for part of the month of October.

According to Sue Rushfirth of the Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable, the color purple “is a symbol to those who may be wounded emotionally or physically of peace, courage, survival and honor, and a dedication to ending violence.”

On Tuesday, October 17, at 7:00 p.m., First Parish will host an outdoor public vigil on the front lawn. It will be led by the Rev. Dr. Stephanie May and members of the Wayland Interfaith Leaders Association. All are invited to join.

“Domestic violence is an epidemic that is often hiding in plain sight in communities of all kinds, including ours,” says the Rev. Dr. Stephanie May, minister at First Parish. “Our families are not immune from this kind of harassment and violence.”

“Purple is the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we hope the purple light on our churches will get people’s attention and inspire them to ask questions and learn more, or seek help if they need it,” says the Rev. Ted Crass, pastor at Community United Methodist Church.

Partner violence crosses cultural and socioeconomic lines. Experts say there are some characteristics of suburban settings that can create specific obstacles for victims who experience violence at home.

According to the Domestic Violence Victims Assistance Program, isolation, high levels of education, elevated social status, elevated income, and discomfort with social service agencies or police are just some factors that can in particular make the cycles of violence in suburban settings difficult to break.

Beyond violence in the home, this month’s programs also highlight the potential for abuse in dating situations and in breakups in high schools and on university campuses. One in three Americans between the ages of 14 and 20 report being the victims of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Financial abuse is yet another prevalent form where one partner controls the finances of another.

Malcolm Astley, who co-founded the Lauren Dunne Astley Foundation to promote healthy teen relationships, notes: “In recent years, schools and college campuses have been working to educate students and their parents about the warnings signs of abuse, whether it be in the form of harassment on social media or physical violence. But there is still much work to be done to help students handle emotions and conflict in constructive ways. We need to provide skills for safe breakups.”

The Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable is a local non-profit organization focused on providing public education and assistance to professionals engaged in efforts to reduce domestic violence and to build effective social action for prevention. The organization’s website, www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org, includes information about abuse, as well as hotlines and other resources that help victims of violence.  Consultation for potential abuse perpetrators may be made through contact with Emerge in Cambridge at (617) 547-9879.

Anyone fearful for her or his safety should call 9-1-1 or the Massachusetts Statewide Hotline, available 24 hours, at 877-785-2020.

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