Marissa Vanio is the Development Associate at WomenSafe in Geauga County.

Editor’s note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Marissa Vanio at WomenSafe wrote this blog post to help people in domestic violence situations learn how to take steps to improve their lives. WomenSafe’s mission is to provide emergency shelter and resources to survivors of domestic violence.

Domestic violence refers to a pattern of abusive and violent behavior that one person uses to exercise power and control over another.

Did you know that in the United States, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner? In one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

If you were unaware of this frightening statistic, do not feel alone. When I first started at WomenSafe nearly four years ago, I had no idea that domestic violence was so prevalent. I also was unaware that this crime is remarkably underreported for many reasons, fear being a leading one. Therefore, this startling statistic truly does not show the true depth of domestic violence.

During my first few weeks as an intern at WomenSafe, I attended a WomenSafe presentation at a local high school. I remember sitting in the empty seat in the back of the classroom while my now-colleague educated the students and me on the different forms of abuse. I knew about physical abuse already, but I was perplexed that domestic violence could also take the form of verbal, emotional, sexual, and/or financial/resource abuse. Looking back over the last four years, I have been able to see each of these forms of abuse in the stories WomenSafe’s clients have courageously shared with me.

If you are a survivor of domestic violence and have endured or are enduring one of these forms of abuse, please know there is hope.

In 1980, a group of community members founded WomenSafe by providing emergency shelter in their own homes to women and children living in abusive situations. Today, WomenSafe continues to provide emergency shelter to survivors of domestic violence, but also provides free support services, including case management, counseling, peer support group, art therapy, court and hospital advocacy, relocation assistance, reestablishment services, education, and the Empowered Parent Program. In addition, WomenSafe offers services to women and men, as domestic violence is indiscriminate in nature.

You are also not alone. For 24-hour support and crisis management, please contact COPELine at 1-888-285-5665.

If you are interested in volunteering at WomenSafe, including at the Resale Shoppe where all proceeds support the free services for survivors of domestic violence, please contact 440-286-7154, ext. 240 or outreach@womensafe.org.

One of my favorite books that I have read recently is Everybody, AlwaysIn this captivating and inspiring book, author Bob Goff encourages readers to live without fear and worry, just as WomenSafe helps survivors overcome their fear and trauma and persevere through difficulties to live abuse-free lives.