A tendency toward domestic violence is often learned at a young age, according to representatives of the Wheeling YWCA.
That's why it's important to get the message across as early as possible that violent behavior is unacceptable, officials said.
All this week through Sunday is the YWCA's "Week Without Violence" - an initiative created by the national organization about 20 years ago to mobilize people everywhere to take action against all forms of violence. This year's theme, according to Wheeling YWCA Executive Director Lori Jones, is "What Will It Take," designed to stimulate conversation about ways to stop abusive behavior.
A number of stressors contribute to domestic violence, Jones said - financial hardship and drug and alcohol abuse, for example. But many of those factors accelerate the existing problem, the root cause of which often runs much deeper, according to Patricia Flanigan, coordinator of the Wheeling YWCA's Family Violence Prevention Program.
"It's a belief system. It's learned, it's taught, it's witnessed," Flanigan said of domestic violence. "That's the challenge, I think."
Flanigan said victim-blaming - often on the part of the victims themselves as well as those on the outside looking in - is one of the biggest obstacles to combating domestic violence. For example, many people fault those who stay with an abusive spouse or significant other, not understanding that reluctance to leave may stem from a legitimate fear for one's life.
"The most dangerous part is when someone's trying to leave (a violent household). ... It's about power and control. Once someone thinks they've lost control, what do they have to lose?" Flanigan said.
YWCA events set through the remainder of October - which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month - include speaking engagements at Wheeling Jesuit University today at 10:30 a.m., Bethany College at 11 a.m. Wednesday and West Liberty University at 11 a.m. Oct. 23. There also will be a candlelight vigil at 5 p.m. Monday at the fountain of the Marshall County Courthouse in Moundsville, and a "peace walk" at Wheeling Middle School at 2 p.m. Oct. 23.