October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some form of domestic violence. It is a calamity affecting people of all backgrounds that has only become more severe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is hope for anyone who has experience with domestic violence. The Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio organization’s CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence program assists victims in breaking the cycle and beginning the healing process. LSS chronicles the story of Dina, a victim of abuse who sought refuge with her children at the LSS CHOICES shelter. “I have a job. I have friends. I smile a lot and even laugh with the other women,” she told LSS a month after living at the shelter. “I am proud and feel confident. I am enjoying my life. This is freedom.”
LSS CHOICES offers temporary emergency shelter at an unpublished location for victims and their children who are in imminent danger and have no safe place to go. LSS also offers a 24-hour hotline staffed by people who are trained in safety planning and provide information and referrals based on a caller’s individual needs. “We get about 4,500 crisis hotline calls a year,” said Susan L. Villilo, assistant vice president of community-based services at Lutheran Social Services, in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch. In 2020, LSS sheltered more than 800 people, she said.
Last week, LSS was featured for the second time by the WBNS television special “Choose Hope: Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence Together,” which explored the organization’s work through the CHOICES program. The special featured two female victims who shared their experiences and their choice to turn to LSS CHOICES. Their bravery exemplifies the strength of all people who experience domestic violence.
Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a network of 300 health and human service organizations located in more than 1,400 communities across the United States. Together, the network makes a difference in the lives of one in 50 Americans every year.
By Christopher Findlay, Senior Marketing Manager