When most people think of October, they think of Halloween, hayrides and haunted houses.
But for Jeronica Frierson, October means Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Frierson is the domestic violence victim advocate for Army Community Service at Redstone Arsenal and is also a licensed independent clinical social worker.
“A significant component of what we do is assisting individuals with finding resources that they may need,” she said. Those resources may include financial resources or shelter for an individual who needs to leave a dangerous situation, or even working with the individual to come up with a “safety plan” if he or she is unable to detach from their abuser.
“More likely than not, we have individuals who are trying to figure out a way to be safe despite their location or relationship status,” Frierson said. “Not everyone that’s involved in domestic violence is in a place where they’re able or ready to leave the relationship, so thorough safety planning is vital component of advocacy.
Sometimes individuals don’t even recognize they’re in a situation that could be considered violent or abusive until they’ve talked through it with Frierson—her job is to listen and provide resources.
“You don’t need to worry about feeling like we’re going to try to force you to make a decision that you’re not ready to make,” Frierson said.
As conversations about issues like domestic violence become more prevalent, Frierson also has advice for individuals who may be bystanders or witnesses of a potentially dangerous or violent situation.
“The first thing I would say is, be mindful,” Frierson said. “Be mindful that what you may want for a person or what you may think a person needs is not always what they’re able to do in that moment.”
Often, Frierson said, people will unknowingly endanger a victimized individual by making assumptions or taking actions that don’t align with what the victim may need or want in that moment. The window of time when one individual is leaving a violent or abusive domestic situation can be one of the most dangerous for victims, and many times bystanders or well-intentioned individuals don’t recognize this.
“You may be pushing the person to do something that they are not in that moment really emotionally or financially able to do,” Frierson said. “As a bystander, sometimes people go into ‘fix it’ mode, and I would discourage that. Let the person know that you are there for them, and you can help in the capacity that they are most comfortable with.”
However, bystanders shouldn’t take that as discouragement from any action.
While we know that domestic violence is prevalent and wrong, at times it can seem like it’s normalized or we’re desensitized to it. A lot of people still sort of feel like, ‘that’s not my business, that’s not my place to say or do anything.’” Frierson also suggests that bystanders refrain from making assumptions or discussing issues with peers and instead reach out to a supervisor or individual in a position to help.
Those seeking more information about the resources ACS provides for domestic violence relief can call ACS at 876-5397. There is also a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 508-6613. There are two different reporting options, restricted and unrestricted, that victims can choose from if they decide to make a report. Frierson said this is especially important because, in certain situations, the reporting party does not want the perpetrator’s command to be involved.
“The goal is ultimately always to provide you with support needed to empower you to make the best decisions for your life in addition to safety planning, and to make you aware of the resources that are available,” Frierson said.