HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - When a gunman with an alleged history of domestic violence took his wife hostage at her workplace, the Gulfport Community looked on in shock. However, those at the heart of the issue say domestic violence is all too common.
"Domestic Violence can start off very subtly. So, victims don't see the signs in the beginning," said Susie Tenney of the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence.
Volunteers with the Women's Center say for each of the 200 court cases seen Hancock and Harrison Counties each month, there are many more that go unreported.
"There are a lot of underlying circumstances that prevent that victim from leaving, and if we all have a really good understanding about domestic violence, we can all work together for prevention," said Tenney.
Prevention can begin with knowing the signs, like partners showing jealousy or attempting to isolate you from friends and family.
"Domestic Violence isn't about anger. It's about power and control. It's using different methods to control a partner," said Tenney.
Experts say domestic violence comes in many forms. Aside from physical abuse, it can take the form of emotional abuse and even economic abuse where a victim is prevented from having any financial security.
Any victim, male and female, can find help in the Women's Center. They offer counseling, legal clinics, a 24 hour hotline and even a secure shelter. They also provide help for victims of sexual assault and those who have lost friends or family in a homicide.
If a situation escalates to violence, Tenney says a victim should avoid going into the kitchen where more weapons are available and to stay away from small spaces where they could be trapped. Most importantly, she says a victim needs to get away and find a phone to call 911.
"Victims really need to be safe. Change their route to work. Change the locks on their house. Block phone numbers. Be careful with social networking," said Tenney.
Experts say the hardest and most dangerous time for victims is when they decide to leave the situation. But, they say there is hope waiting for those who need help.
Tenney suggests that victims thinking about leaving should make a safe plan. She suggests they put together a bag or packet containing important documents, identification and cash to make getting away easier.
The Women's Center can be reached at the following number for help:
- Harrison County: (228) 435-1968
- Jackson County: (228) 875-5433
- All others: 1 (800) 800-1396