Women in abusive relationships can't always just pack their bags and leave.
"The most dangerous time for a woman as far as her safety and life is concerned is right before she leaves, while she's leaving, and right after she leaves," said Laura Stocker, program director for Women's Transitional Care Services in Ottawa. "We can't say, 'Why didn't she just get the hell out of there?'"
That's one of the lessons WTCS hopes to teach the public during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
WTCS will sponsor events throughout the month in Lawrence and Ottawa to raise community awareness of the epidemic of domestic violence as well as services provided by WTCS, which has served women and their children who are survivors of domestic violence since 1976 in Lawrence and 1994 in Ottawa and Franklin County.
Hundreds of ribbons tied to trees in front of the Douglas and Franklin county courthouses will be a visible reminder of the number of domestic violence incidents that have occurred in those counties during the past year.
Womyn Take Back the Night, an annual protest against sexual and domestic violence, will return this year from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 25.
Lea Carland, outreach coordinator for WTCS in Lawrence, said she hoped to see a more diverse crowd at this year's rally.
"It seems like something a lot of women college students have attended," she said. "I would like to see more people of all ages and genders and more people of the community come also."
At 18,966 incidents in Kansas in 1998, an act of domestic violence occurred every 29 minutes 13 seconds. Twenty-six incidents ended in murder, according to a report published by the Kansas Attorney General's Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Douglas County reported 663 incidents the same year, and Franklin County had 160.
Stocker hopes events planned for October will help the community recognize domestic violence for what it is and not ignore it. Although it's not always safe to approach a woman in an abusive situation, Stocker said, it's good to be aware and wait for the right time to let that person know help is available.
"But we never tell a woman what to do, even if personally we don't agree," she said. "It's very empowering for women to make their own decisions."
Another way to empower women in abusive situations is to teach them self-defense. Darryl Mobley, an expert on the topic, will be at Ottawa University from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 10, Stocker said. The first session will be a discussion about intimidation tactics, and the second session will be hands-on, actually teaching women physical self-defense.
Self-defense training in Lawrence will be provided for WTCS residents and advocates from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Other events and activities planned include displays of the Clothesline, Silent Witness and Remember My Name projects at different locations in Lawrence and Ottawa and the distribution of bookmarks, matchbooks and ribbon-pins by area businesses. The Clothesline Project consists of T-shirts bearing designs and messages about domestic violence some designed by survivors of domestic violence, others by friends or family members of victims.
Churches and synagogues in Douglas and Franklin Counties simultaneously will ring bells at noon on Oct. 28 to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Stocker said she hoped activities scheduled in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month not only would educate people about what domestic violence is, but also make them aware that it encompasses a whole range of emotional, psychological and physical situations.
"It's not always hitting or pinching or punching," she said. "It's also intimidation and threats the threat of violence or the threat of hurting a woman's children."