October is Domestic Violence Month, and I represent the 23rd Judicial District Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

My first regular column about domestic violence started in October of 2013. There were a few articles here and there before that. In October of 2019, I started the column in the Dickson Post and now am also in the Cheatham County Exchange.

I love the opportunity to share information about domestic violence; knowledge is a powerful thing. I have yet to run out of things to talk about. Domestic violence is complicated, misunderstood, destructive and deadly. Education is what this column is all about.

The October 2013 article was also about Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What we talked about then were the signs to recognize potential perpetrators of domestic violence earlier. Since then, it occurred to me that Domestic Violence Awareness Month also has Halloween.

Halloween is all about frightening things. We will see lots of witches, ghosts, spiders, skulls, vampires and of course haunted houses or haunted woods. These are scary things and many of us seem to enjoy being just a little afraid. Living in a home with domestic violence is scarier than any of those things and nobody enjoys it.

If I had to put a name to it, I would call it a “Hurting House”. We would never dream of going to that house and would certainly not take our children to such a place. However, the truth is children do experience this much more often than we would like to think. Victims and children that I have worked with are often more afraid to go to their home than a haunted house.

I say they are “often more afraid” because not all children know that what is going on in their house is any different; they haven’t known anything else.

Domestic violence is not always obvious to people from the outside looking in. Perpetrators of domestic violence often do not look scary to most of us; yet they are very scary in the eyes of their victims. After an arrest for domestic violence, we often hear from friends of the perpetrator that they either do not believe it or are shocked to hear that their friend has harmed a loved one. But for the victims it is a different story. Just the thought of angering a perpetrator can strike fear in the whole family. Being beaten or watching a parent or loved one being beaten is devastating, and the effects are long term.

At the end of this month, we will put away all of the fake spider webs, bats, costumes, masks and cauldrons. We will get rid of all the pumpkins, scarecrows and bales of hay. We won’t do that again for a year. However, the hurting houses will continue to be a scary place and the perpetrators mask will remain. Unless something changes abuse will continue to escalate to physical violence and that will escalate as well.

Conventional wisdom says that domestic violence is a learned behavior and that with education, new behaviors can be learned. Where it is learned is most often in the home where abuse is occurring. As a rule, new behaviors don’t come from remorse or guilt. A perpetrator may regret what they have done and want to change but it isn’t that easy. The goal is not just changing behavior, it is changing beliefs. If beliefs don’t change the behaviors will return.

It is about power, and control and education are needed to really change, not just “act” differently. Education is available and there is help for perpetrators and for victims.

Downtown Dickson will be having Boo Fest on Oct. 30 and will be celebrating Christmas Downtown on Dec. 4. These are always well attended events. Dec. 4 is also Main Street Interventions’ 20th Anniversary. I will remind you again next month, we hope you can come and help us celebrate.

The 23rd Judicial District Coalition is meeting again. I don’t have the date for our next meeting yet. If you are interested just give us a call.

Patti Flores-Pugh is the Founder and Director of Main Street Interventions. For help or to help you can call the following numbers: The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); Women Are Safe’s crisis line 1-800-470-1117; Dickson Area Crisis Line – (615) 740-8329; Main Street Interventions (615) 740-7100; National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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