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Opinion: iCare campaign opens eyes to domestic violence

Publisher’s Perspective

Posted online

On Sept. 21, I joined approximately 200 people at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center to kick off the Harmony House iCare campaign. This year marks the second for this awareness and fundraising effort that originated in Springfield and is being packaged for duplication in communities across the United States in the coming year.

The campaign starts with the kick-off breakfast designed to enlist the support of area businesses and arm them with information about the magnitude of the domestic violence epidemic locally and nationally. It’s followed by a month of various fundraising activities and awareness messages culminating on Oct. 26, when hundreds of area businesspeople will wear a symbolic black eye pledging their support to curb domestic violence.

Perhaps you’ve already seen some of these daunting images on local billboards and on the printed pages of Springfield Business Journal. If you are a follower of social media, I’m certain you’ve seen some familiar faces carrying the iCare message.

It was an easy yes for me when Harmony House Development Director Esther Munch asked if SBJ would participate as a media sponsor of the 2018 campaign. I already was armed with about a hundred reasons why I should care, some of the most impactful of which are shared below.

1. I visited the newly expanded Harmony House and got to see firsthand what is happening there daily. I saw small children being cared for by attentive volunteers so their mothers could attend to other business knowing their children were in a safe place. Rooms were occupied at near capacity, and household supplies and clothing donations were being organized to help families with their next steps back into the world outside. It was clear to me that local need exists, and Harmony House has assembled the infrastructure, staff and volunteers to provide essential services and a safe haven. Harmony House is the largest shelter in the state of Missouri and the only domestic violence shelter in Greene County.

2. I am acutely aware that domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions nationwide. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statistics indicate domestic violence is currently the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Every nine seconds a woman is beaten in the United States.

3. Missouri is no exception. A September 2018 report of the Violence Policy Center, entitled When Men Murder Women, ranked Missouri seventh in the nation with 1.84 homicides per 100,000 females. Arkansas was ranked fourth. The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence indicates Greene County has one of the highest rates of domestic violence per capita in the state. Police officers in Springfield responded to 2,902 domestic assaults in 2017, according to the department’s 2018 Uniform Crime Report.

4. Domestic violence has a weighty impact on employers. NCADV statistics indicate victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work annually at a cost exceeding $8.3 billion per year. Between 21 percent and 60 percent of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

These, and many more, are the reasons I said yes to the local iCare campaign. I went in with maybe the same thoughts that some of you are having. I saw clear evidence of need, and I knew I had the means to contribute something. It wasn’t that I particularly believed that domestic violence had or would touch my life or my business personally. In fact, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t.

Then something unexpected happened at the iCare kickoff. I heard a longtime acquaintance, Lori Wanamaker, recount her personal history of abuse and her journey back to wholeness. Here was someone I had known for several years, and that I considered a friend, and yet I had no idea what her struggles once were or how far she’d traveled since. The kickoff breakfast came to a dramatic close as the nine-second statistic was put into perspective. In the short time that attendees spent rallying for the cause and gearing up for the month ahead, over 400 women in the United States became victims of domestic assault.

The next statement I’ll make isn’t supported by any formal study and won’t be cited in the form of an official report. I just have a suspicion that there are others among the influential group of SBJ readers that are like me. You aren’t at all blind to the need. It just hasn’t entered your personal sphere of existence. Yet, you have the most resources at your disposal to make an impact on domestic violence and to change the numbers that will appear in the next statistical analysis of domestic violence in the area.

I hope you will take the pledge.

Springfield Business Journal Publisher Jennifer Jackson can be reached at jjackson@sbj.net.

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Tammy Johnson

Great article, Jennifer!

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