Pam Gillenwater, director of the YWCA's Resolve Family Abuse Program, said domestic violence is a problem that spills out into the street.
"Many victims, not all, turn to substance abuse for suffering emotional trauma," Gillenwater said.
It can affect workplaces when perpetrators come to their victims' job sites, she said.
Gillenwater said people view women as property and often don't intervene when they see men abusing them, even in public.
An informal survey of a group of men in a mostly court-ordered batterers prevention group run by the YWCA found that most would not confront a man who hit his wife or girlfriend while they sat at a mall food court, Gillenwater said. Some said they would perhaps get the attention of a security guard. The same group of men said they would intervene if a stranger struck a woman in public.
"I would say, remember that every female is someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's friend," she said. "People have a different perspective when you put it to them like that."
While the informal survey was done among batterers, Gillenwater said much of the public has a similar attitude. Victims will often say that their abuser has hit them in public and people around them did nothing to stop it, she said.
People who suspect that their friend or family member is being abused can help by listening to the victim, Thomas said. They should keep offering support to victims, even if they stay with their abusers. People sometimes get frustrated with victims who don't immediately leave and with those who go back, she said.
"That's such a mistake," Thomas said. "Victims go back for a lot of reasons."
She added that people can help by connecting victims to the various programs in West Virginia that are set up to help. "There are still folks out there who don't realize there are domestic violence programs," Thomas said.
The YWCA offers a 24/7 domestic violence crisis line at 800-681-8663 or 304-340-3549. There's also a National Domestic Violence Hotline that can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE. For more information about the Resolve Family Abuse Program, call the office at 304-340-3549.
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.