Domestic violence is a thief.
It takes away lives, happiness, security, contentment and more. It affects men, women, children, the rich and the poor.
And it is all too common.
There are many ways to bring attention to the problem, and troopers with the Delaware State Police are using their 10th annual Motorcycle Rid for Domestic Violence Awareness to do just that.
The ride will be held, rain or shine, Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. at DSP headquarters in Dover. Check-in will be at 9 a.m., said Master Cpl. Gary Fournier.
Fournier has been with the program since its inception and will lead the bikers during their trek.
"Back in 2003, we sat down, our executive staff and domestic violence coordinators and said we wanted to do something to raise awareness," Fournier said. "A lot of us were into motorcycle riding, and we thought this would be a good way to raise awareness about domestic violence.
"It just took off from there."
That first year brought out approximately 150 riders, and the event has averaged around 200 each year since, Fournier said.
Riders will be escorted by other motorcycle troopers, who will manage traffic to make sure the bikers cover the route safely. Fournier himself is an experienced rider, being a longtime member of the division's motorcycle unit.
"It's a nice, slow ride," Fournier said. "We stay in a nice, big pack, and people really enjoy the ride through the back roads of Kent and New Castle counties."
Debbie Reed, director of victim's services for the DSP, said the ride is held in conjunction with October's National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which aims to help people understand the problem's impact on society.
"We always are looking for ways to promote awareness," she said. "We assume, a lot of times that people are aware of it, but many are not. We felt this would bring the community in, and make more people aware who may not have realized how prevalent the problem really is."
Domestic abuse has many faces: it can take the form not just of physical abuse, but of controlling behavior, verbal domination, sexual abuse and many other elements that can be tough to identify, Reed said.
"It's devastating," she said. "Many households have children who witness this behavior, so we also want to pay particular attention to them."
Recognizing domestic violence also can be difficult because it doesn't always leave physical scars, she said.
"A lot of times it's going on, and we're not aware of it," Reed said. "It's not something people come forward with. The person next to you can be suffering and you won't know it.
Page 2 of 2 - "We want to tell people it's OK to speak up and make them aware there are agencies out there that are willing to help them."
Registration is $20 per person, payable on the day of the ride, which will take place rain or shine. The money is used to cover costs of the event, including the commemorative pins and T-shirts and the domestic violence awareness wrist bands, which are provided to the first 500 registrants.
A free buffet for all registrants will be provided at Bogey's Grill in Middletown, the finish line for the event, Reed said.
BY THE NUMBERS
29,632 – domestic violence reports handled in Delaware
15,928 – cases that were criminal in nature
10,214 – cases that involved a violent act
Source: Delaware State Police Victim Center; current as of 2011