KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It was launched nationwide in 1987 as a way to connect individuals experiencing domestic abuse with resources.
Domestic violence includes physical abuse, but it's not limited to that. There is physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect.
Catherine Oaks is the director of victim services at the McNabb Center. She explained how all those different forms of abuse can contribute to coercive control.
"There is definitely a large spectrum of domestic violence," Oaks said. "It really can tear someone's psyche down, their self-esteem down, it really can cause a lot of emotional issues for someone that has been victimized."
In the state of Tennessee, one in every four women will experience domestic violence. So will one in every seven men.
"It is something that literally touches our entire community," said Kathryn Ellis, the executive director of the Family Justice Center. "It is one of our top issues as far as crime statistics."
The Family Justice Center (FJC) serves as the hub of domestic violence services for all of Knoxville and Knox County. The building hosts eight onsite partners and about 30 or 40 offsite partners.
"We try to make it so that a victim only has to come to one place," Ellis said.
Domestic violence is a prevalent issue in Knox County. According to the Knoxville Police Department and Knox County Sheriff's Office, a domestic violence-related emergency call is placed every 30 minutes. These agencies also say these are the most dangerous calls to respond to.
In 2021, 1,948 people came to the JFC seeking assistance. There, they can find a domestic violence shelter to live in, and find therapies, and legal aid.
"When people say, Oh, that's not happening in my neighborhood, or that's not happening in my family. It is it simply is," Ellis said.
There are several organizations supporting the drive to raise awareness around domestic violence in the month of October.
On October 5, the FJC held the Kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness month. Mayor Indya Kincannon, the McNabb Center, police department, District Attorney's office, YWCA, and other partners came to show their support.
Starting on Monday, October 10, the Knoxville Convention Center pedestrian bridge will light up in purple colors, to show support for victims of domestic violence.
Thursday, October 20 is 'Wear Purple for Domestic Violence Awareness Day.' It is a color that has long been used for women seeking justice. It is a way to show solidarity with victims of domestic violence. During this time, the YWCA will wrap downtown Knoxville and Jackson Square in Oak Ridge in purple. This is a part of their purple ribbon campaign. It also exists to encourage people to take the 'I believe you' pledge online.
On Friday, October 21 the Mcnabb Center and Junior League of Knoxville will host Flowers on the Water. It is an event to remember and honor individuals who have been impacted by domestic violence and share stories of the triumph and hope of survivors. Charme Allen, District Attorney General will serve as the keynote speaker. The event will be held at the Cove at Concord Park from 5:30-7 p.m.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, the easiest way to get help is to call the local domestic violence hotline: 865-637-8000. It is the best number to use to connect victims with local shelters, child care, legal aid, and other help. This number can be used for anyone living in East Tennessee.
You can also visit the Family Justice Center in Knoxville, off Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. There is no appointment necessary.
The YWCA's Victim Advocacy Program provides assistance to victims by issuing orders of protection, accompanying victims to court, conducting danger assessments, and developing safety plans.
In Knox County, there's an average of 164 orders of protection filed every month.
The District Attorney's office prosecuted more than 2,000 domestic violence cases in 2021. Domestic disputes trigger 28% of all warrants taken in Knox County. DA Charme Allen said her office prosecutes abusers to the fullest extent of the law.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
If you're not ready to take those steps. Talk to a friend or family member that you trust.
"Victims need to be heard, they need to be believed. And if somebody tells you that they are a victim, you need to do what you can to support them," Ellis said.