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National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Posted Oct 02 2008 12:00am

by Yannique Benitez, freelance blogger

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and there are many ways for people to get involved to spread awareness.

“(One way) to end domestic violence is to challenge your peers when they objectify women/men, tell sexist jokes, use gender stereotypes as a way to live their lives. If we all do our part to relate to each other as equals and with respect, we will go far in ending domestic violence,” said Dotti Barraco-Hetnar, the programs administrator at Vera House Inc. in Syracuse, N.Y.

 The National Domestic Violence Hotline says domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, or who are dating and affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Although women are most often the victims of domestic violence, men can also be victims. Barraco-Hetnar said that Vera House receives about 10 calls a year from male victims either in heterosexual or homosexual relationships.

An abuser may also be physically or emotionally violent to his victim. Laurie Murray, the director of the Alternative to Domestic Violence Program at Vera House, said both her father and husband physically and emotionally abused her. Murray was the oldest of five children and said she remembered getting her first black eye from her father a day before her 13th birthday. She moved out of her home immediately after she graduated high school and met her future husband at 22-years-old.  

“They never are violent when you first meet,” she said.  Murray said they both loved each other as they still do today, even though her husband’s abuse included slapping, grabbing, hitting and intimidation. She said she forced him to leave their home numerous times but allowed him to return because he was the father of her children and provided financial support. “The whole relationship was not bad, most of the time you have a very normal life together,” she said.            

“Many victims hold on to the hope that the abuser will change and often times victims find themselves dependent on the abuser and find it difficult to stay a part if they do not have support and hope for the future,” said Barraco-Hetnar.

Murray finally separated from her husband and he is currently in prison for another crime. She also has a positive relationship with her father. “These men do not have anger management issues, they have issues with control,” Murray said.  In her program she helps over 460 men annually, deal with these issues and she corresponds with courts and probation officers.

Murray began at Vera House as a clerical assistant ten years ago and now is the first woman to be in charge of the Alternative to Domestic Violence program.


·  Calls you names, insults you or puts you down

·  Forces you to have sexual intercourse or engage in sexual acts against your will

·  Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, or chokes you or threatens you with violence or a weapon

·  Prevents you from going to work or school

·  Stops you from seeing family members and friends

The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 (800) 799-SAFE

Vera House, Syracuse, New York

Dottie Barraco-Hetnar,(315) 468-3260

Laurie Murray, (315) 425-0818 or


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