Health Secondary Story

Sue Ann Says: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

In daily life a woman faces normal challenges and stress, but when a woman suffers domestic violence from a partner, the consequences are often heart wrenching and dangerous. Patti Seger from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence shared the 2014-2020 Long Range Plan for a Safe Wisconsin with me on the day it was released, August 28, 2014. “Wisconsin domestic violence programs serve about 40,000 women, children and men annually. Between 25,000 and 30,000 reports are made to police each year,” said Patti. The Long Range Plan reported that 714,000 Wisconsin women have been physically abused, sexually assaulted or stalked by an intimate partner.

“We conduct a single 24 hour survey each year of how many victims are served by programs in one 24 hour period. It’s a great way to get an unduplicated count at a point in time. In 2013, in the single day, domestic violence programs served 2,100 people in that 24 hour period yet also turned away 250 victims due to lack of resources. If we were to multiply 250 by 365 days in a year, that’s more than 91,000 victims who did not get services because there weren’t enough resources,” said Patti.

Domestic violence against a woman does not just affect one woman. When a Wisconsin woman is abused it affects the children in the family, neighbors and friends, co-workers and our Wisconsin communities.

Wisconsin Statistics Reveal Women are at Risk! 

We need to pause and consider how we can help break the cycle of domestic violence when we study our very own Wisconsin statistics.

  • The vast majority of victims coming forward for services are between the ages of 18-40. However, the baby boomers are aging and programs are seeing more and more elder victims of abuse.
  • 69 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have experienced a domestic violence homicide since 2000.
  • In that time, 499 Wisconsinites have lost their lives in domestic violence homicides.
  • There were 28,729 domestic abuse incidents reported to law enforcement and referred to Wisconsin district attorneys’ offices in 2012. Of those incidents, 23,410 were committed against women.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate every physical domestic assault perpetrated against a woman results in an average of 7.2 days of missed work.
  • Data suggests that about 30% of children who witness domestic violence are themselves physically abused.
  • Domestic abuse is a leading cause of homelessness, especially among women.

Abused women suffer from devastating injuries such as brain damage, blindness, deafness, speech loss due to a damaged larynx, disfigurement, internal organ damage, and paralysis, Domestic violence creates other health problems for women such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbances.

Wisconsin Programs Reach Out to Women

Wisconsin has 73 programs that serve all 72 counties and the 11 tribes. All of the programs offer support groups and other supportive services. If a woman contacts one of the domestic violence advocacy groups, she can benefit from several options that will help her situation. These options include emergency shelter or a safe home, child protective services, transitional housing, support groups, and legal advice from low cost attorneys.

“Many programs have begun to focus on services that help empower victims’ economically. The number one reason victims don’t leave is based on fear, but economic independence….being able to survive outside of the relationship…is close behind. Victims need help with job training, jobs, housing, child care and health care in order to live independently,” explained Patti.

What Can You Do if You Are Being Abused?

  • Call 911 if you are in imminent danger.
  • If you are in fear of your partner but not in immediate danger call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) to connect with a domestic abuse program for assistance. Conversations are confidential. Advocates will help assess your situation and will share options you can access in your area.
  • The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends setting up a safety plan and provides indispensable suggestions on making your own plan. (

What Can You Do If You Need a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is a court order that orders someone to stop harming you. “Wisconsin has 72 counties and 11 tribes. Services are available in all counties and tribes. Most programs have legal advocacy staff that will assist victims and help them to secure legal representation if needed. Legal advocates are lay people and are not lawyers, therefore, they cannot practice law but rather, they can support victims as they proceed through criminal or civil procedures,” reported Patti.

Why is the 2014-2020 Long Range Plan for a Safe Wisconsin Important?

After working with a Wisconsin domestic violence victim service provider, 91% of victims know more ways to plan for their safety and 90% know more about community resources. The plan sets priorities to maintain and expand services for victims, expand outreach and education to Wisconsin communities. These services will not only help women, but children and the LGBT community. I urge you to go to this month to read a detailed copy of the plan.

The central goal is To Give Every Victim and Every Child the Ability to Live Free from Abuse. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Because it all beings with a healthy woman…

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-448-5148.

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