Pumpkins, sweaters, and turning leaves are clear signs of the changing season. The Halloween costumes are a reminder that October is also the month to unmask the issues of domestic violence. Disguising the signs of abuse by hiding or lying about bruises or other injuries should be taken seriously.
“As a Bright Start home visiting nurse, we all have a role in promoting healthy relationships and building a healthy community with the moms we serve. We build a trusting relationship with our first-time moms and help them recognize what a healthy and an unhealthy relationship may look like,” explained Valerie Wagner, RN, Bright Start home visiting nurse for the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care (SDFMC). “If any woman feels they are in an unsafe environment, we support them in developing a safety plan and connecting her to resources.”
Understanding the signs of domestic violence may save a life. An individual may be in danger if their partner demonstrates the following abusive behaviors, or these behaviors increase in frequency and/or severity.
- Getting drunk frequently
- Using drugs
- Strangling their partner
- Forcing sex
- Threatening to kill self or others
- Jealous, untrusting, or controlling behavior
- Fighting with others
- Keeps a gun in the house
- Hitting or punching people
- Hitting or killing pets
Expectant and first-time mothers enrolled in the Bright Start program build relationships with their nurses and may communicate when abuse is happening. Wagner points out, “Safety for the mom and her baby is my top priority. Allowing the mom to know that she is not alone and empowering to make a change for her safety and that of her baby is important to me.”
Children who see or hear abuse may continue the cycle of abuse as adults and/or experience other long-term effects, including mistrust of adults, physical and emotional pain, hostility, sleep issues, substance use disorder, and more. There are many resources available to women and mothers, including Safe Place of Eastern South Dakota, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. Any individual experiencing abuse may also call 211 for additional help.
Anyone can refer a family member, friend, or themselves to receive support from Bright Start by completing the referral form on the website.