Keri McGregor wants to enlighten the public about domestic violence for two reasons: to help victims, and to help loved ones and friends identify and aid victims.
McGregor, director of Catholic Charities’ Harbor House, a diocesan ministry, said domestic violence is a huge problem in Sedgwick County.
“Harbor House is one of the two domestic violence shelters in this county and we are always full,” she said. “It’s almost immediate, as someone is moving out that we have people filling that space. We are turning away roughly 75 people a month at this moment.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. McGregor hopes families, friends, and acquaintances of possible victims will educate themselves about how they can help.
The signs can be subtle, she said, something such as a change in the demeanor of an individual when their partner walks into the room, or not spending as much time with loved ones as they typically did.
“And then there’s always physical marks in some instances,” McGregor said. “There is a very apparent low self-esteem, that over time you start to see this person change from who you knew.”
Someone not in a domestic violence situation may not be able to understand why someone in such a relationship would stay, she said.
“The best thing we can do is to believe them, support them, encourage them, and, most importantly, help them navigate our system of finding resources in a very safe and non-judgmental way.”
Those who suspect domestic violence are encouraged to call one of the hotlines at Harbor House, she said. Someone is available every hour of the day to answer questions about what services are available, who qualifies, and how to go about getting help safely.
It’s important for family and friends to reach out for a domestic violence victim, she added, because the victim may be under a huge amount of stress and may put themselves in danger by simply picking up the phone for help.
“The friend or family member may not be a victim of domestic violence, but they can still call the hotlines to find out what the resources are,” she said.
“I would like people to not pass judgment, not to question the steps another person might take – it’s their life and we can’t possibly know what we might do in that situation until we’re actually in it,” she said.
“So, be nonjudgmental, non-blaming, and just open your arms to people who need help no matter whether you agree or disagree with the choices that they make – just love and accept everyone.”
If the community is able to reach out without judgement more people in domestic violence situations will be helped, McGregor said.

Support with hashtags, wear purple
Catholic Charities is promoting Domestic Violence Awareness Month through social media and hopes to increase awareness by wearing purple on Thursdays in October.
“By wearing purple, or promoting purple in your place of business, or wherever you may be, you are showing that you stand with survivors in support of them,” says Keri McGregor, director of Harbor House.
#DVfreeICT and #PurpleThursdayICT – will be used to promote domestic violence awareness this month.

Need help for domestic violence?
If you are the victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, contact or call 316-263-6000.