By Pamela Brownstein
For 26 years, the local nonprofit organization Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse, or CODA, has been focused on supporting victims of domestic violence. But with all the complexities surrounding the issue, the group is now reaching out to the community to change people’s perceptions of domestic abuse.
Kristin Dubrowski, executive director who has been with CODA for eight years, said it’s important to raise awareness so people can identify the problem and hopefully break the cycle of abuse. “We are finding a message that can get the community involved,” she said, so victims can have more access to resources and won’t feel marginalized or isolated.
The group has programs that start in middle school to educate students, especially young men, about how domestic violence affects families.
They also work with law enforcement and those in the court system to try to deal with the challenges of victims not wanting to press charges against their abusers, or feeling re-victimized by the legal process. Kristin said having a full time attorney on staff to represent abuse cases has made a difference.
A recent report ranked South Carolina as number two in the nation when it comes to domestic violence murders.
CODA board member Catherine Stewart said, “As bad as the numbers are, there are many that go unreported.”
The group provides a crisis hotline and a shelter for victims and their children, but their assistance goes beyond emergency situations. Through a transitional housing program, they are able to provide ongoing support and help victims get back on their feet. They also offer a free weekly abuse support group where women come together and tell their stories and help each other through their shared experiences.
“It’s interesting that it’s something that people don’t like to talk about,” said Kristin.
But with October designated as domestic violence awareness month, it’s time the community starts having serious discussions about abuse and how everyone can work to end it.
To send donations or become a volunteer, contact CODA at 843-770-1070 or visit www.codalowcountry.org. For help, call the 24-hour emergency hotline at 800-868-CODA.
Walk a Mile Against Domestic Violence: Join lads and lassies, sprogs and pups to Walk a Mile Against Domestic Violence on Saturday, Oct. 20, at noon at Port Royal’s Festival of the Sea. Meet by the stage at the corner of 8th Street and Paris Avenue. Wear something purple and bring signs to declare: “We arghhh against domestic violence!”