Our View: Say something against domestic violence

DKS Editors

Johanna Orozco knows relationship violence isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to the married with children crowd.

On March 5, 2007, the 18-year-old was leaving for another day of high school when her boyfriend confronted her at the Cleveland home where she lived with her grandparents.

“Hopping into the front seat, she put the keys in the ignition. Something moved to her left, outside the window.

“… It was a person. It was Juan, all in black.

“His eyes locked with hers.

“Juan lifted the sawed-off shotgun he had stowed in a pool cue case.

“Johanna blared the horn.

“Everything went white.”

These are excerpts from last September’s series in the Plain Dealer on Johanna’s struggle, from dealing with abuse for months from her boyfriend Juan Ruiz, to her road to recovery after he sprayed her face with bird pellets. The eight stories revealed something hardly ever spoken of – domestic violence in teen relationships.

As we kick off National Domestic Violence Awareness Month today, it’s stories like Johanna’s that remind us of the many forms and faces such violence can take.

Nearly three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence, according to a 2006 Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence. Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.

Get help:

&bull To speak to someone 24/7, 365 days a year, call the Ohio Domestic Violence Network at 800-934-9840 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.

&bull To learn more about Kent State’s policies on sexual assault, including in the residence halls, visit http://www.kent.edu/wrc/Violence.cfm.

&bull Safer Futures in Kent is a local shelter with its own hotline. It’s located at 143 Gougler Ave. and can be reached at 330-678-3911 or 330-678-4357.

On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, the health-related costs of intimate partner violence exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion is for direct medical and mental health care services.

The way to help is direct – if you or someone you know is in an unhealthy and violent relationship situation, get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). Go to a police station or health center. Visit the Ohio Domestic Violence Network’s Web site at www.odvn.org for more information or to find a shelter.

There are ways to help those affected by domestic violence and raise awareness of the issue, too. When you get a new cell phone, consider donating your old one to a women’s shelter or domestic violence program. These phones are reprogrammed and given to battered women.

Also, Hillel is sponsoring a showing of “When Push Comes to Shove,” a short movie about unhealthy and abusive relationships, on Oct. 28 at the Women’s Resource Center. The WRC is also sponsoring two brown bag lunches to raise awareness. The first will include a presentation by Sarwat Jahan, a Pakistani woman who has worked on domestic violence issues in Pakistan, and the second will include a presentation on Safer Futures, a Kent shelter, by its director Janet Verthe.

While Juan got 27 years in jail for what he did to Johanna, it’s impossible to know how many of those affected by domestic violence don’t say anything. So if you see it, say something. You may be perceiving the situation entirely wrong, but you may also be saving another Johanna from abuse or murder.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the editorial board of the Daily Kent Stater. Read the entire Johanna Orozco story at www.cleveland.com/johanna.