CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- More than 100 purple pinwheels will line the roundabout at the Chesterfield Government complex during October to bring attention to the color and a simple message: see something, say something.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month and local advocates are speaking out so that community members feel empowered to step in and ask questions when they suspect a loved one is in a toxic relationship.
“This is something that is recognizable and it’s something we can prevent,” said Lindsay Cassada, the Coordinator of the Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center.
The office of four people served more than 500 Chesterfield residents in 2020, a number Cassada said is pretty typical and did not necessarily spike during the pandemic. Cassada said it is important to keep in mind the word “violence” is not a limiting term in this context.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors, it’s not always physical violence,” she said. “It’s about the controlling behaviors, it’s about the power, it could be threats.”
Although survivors and perpetrators can be found across all demographic and economic backgrounds, Cassada said there is a clear pattern with many: they grew up in an unhealthy home. Helping break the cycle is the center’s mission, and they try to meet the person wherever they are in the process of processing their own relationship.
“Whether it is a calm, loving, stable environment or it is a chaotic, yelling, angry, violent environment, we’re raised to think whichever one is normal,” she said. “We get calls frequently from parents, saying ‘my child is going through this; what can I do for them.’ The first thing we have to say is recognize it’s their choice if they reach out for help or not.”
Advocates develop a specific plan for each person they work with because every single situation involving domestic violence is so very different.
“There are situations where it is so physically violent someone has to flee, and there are situations where we have time and do a little more planning. We find the most success when there is a good plan,” Cassada said.
Those plans only come about if people recognize the signs of domestic violence and seek intervention, hopefully before physical begins. Some signs Cassada said to look out for include a partner who is overly controlling or jealous or a survivor who is constantly apologetic.
“At the end of the day, it’s about unhealthy relationships, unhealthy households,” she said. “Whether it’s a family member or friend or somebody you know you believe is a victim of these things, or someone you think is perpetrating it, we owe it to each other to recognize it and do something about it.”
From 2007 to 2015, 33 people in Chesterfield were killed in domestic violence situations, according to data reviewed by a county task force.
You can find more resources for Chesterfield residents here or by calling 804-706-2544 or 804-706-2701.
Most cities and counties in the Richmond Metro have similar resources through non-profits, Cassada said.
Those who want to help get resources to survivors can make a donation to the Carolyn Miller Memorial Fund.