WORTHINGTON — October is domestic violence awareness month, and the Southwest Crisis Center invites individuals and communities to support those who experience violence and abuse in their homes.

SWCC Executive Director Sara Wahl emphasized that domestic violence is so much more than just physical violence — it's a spectrum of power and control.

"That's what makes it hard to call what you're experiencing," she said.

Domestic violence can be difficult to identify because it looks so different from person to person.

In fact, in her nine years of directing SWCC, Wahl noted, almost no one has come into the facility and said, "I'm in a domestic violence relationship." More often, people come to SWCC with questions about patterns they've noticed in their relationships. Once there, each client is guided by an advocate to make sense of their feelings and consider their options.

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SWCC will not tell a victim of domestic violence what to do with their relationship, but will provide resources for the victim to pursue whatever path they feel is best.

One of the most important things friends and family of domestic violence victims can do is offer non-judgmental support, Wahl explained. That means not presuming that you know what's best for them, and supporting their decision even if you disagree.

"Believing people is really important," she said, noting that sometimes a person experiencing domestic violence just needs to be heard.

It's also important to remember that not everyone wants to leave a relationship where they are experiencing domestic violence, and in some cases, it's actually safer for them to stay.

"People say, 'It should be easy to leave that relationship,' but think about it in terms of losing weight," Wahl said.

Losing weight requires time, money and flexibility, and even with all those things, there some days when you just can't go to the gym. Domestic violence works that way, too, she said.

On a community level, SWCC has started the hash tag #wearelistening to encourage people living with domestic violence that help and support are available.

Wear Purple Day is designated as Oct. 15, but SWCC is also wearing purple each Thursday to raise awareness about domestic violence.

Anyone interested is invited to participate in a free webinar titled "Why They Don't Leave" at 2 p.m. Oct. 28. SWCC has partnered with domestic violence survivors across its five counties to make this event possible.

Wahl stressed that although COVID-19 has necessitated precautions, SWCC is still open and offering the same quality of services. Advocates are available virtually and by phone — and SWCC can provide a phone, if needed — as well as in person, with a few added safety measures.

"We want to be here to support anybody in the way they want," Wahl said.

For more questions or to get involved, visit mnswcc.org.