At our most recent Southeast Texas Domestic Violence Task Force Panel Discussion, the experts focused on prevention. As victims advocates, we so often hear “Break the Silence… Break the Silence… BREAK THE SILENCE!”
That really is the main problem. To highlight that fact, we started the Panel event by watching a true story about a young mother named Amy that was murdered by her husband. Throughout the description of events, the audience is confronted with the sobering reality that Amy’s friends, family, coworkers, and even police and healthcare workers knew she was being abused.
And he still murdered her. At the end, the audience was left wondering what could have been done differently. And the Panel was ready with answers.
- Believe the victim. And let them know you believe them. If someone confides in you that they are or think they are being abused, don’t question them. You may know the abuser, and not be able to reconcile the person you know as a batterer. Just remember, it is not your place to determine exactly what is happening. That is for the authorities to decide. If we wish to end domestic violence in our communities, bystanders must advocate for the victims.
- Don’t blame or shame the victim. Again, we need to be victim advocates. You may think, why doesn’t she just leave? She must have done something to provoke it. Blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is, NO ONE deserves to be abused. NO ONE. If she decides to stay with him; if she leaves and goes back to him – always be her advocate. Leaving an abuser is extremely difficult and dangerous. Remember, there are complicated dynamics in the relationship that no outsider will understand.
- If you see something, say something. The signs of abuse are clear if you know what to look for. The obvious is unexplained (or poorly explained) injuries. Less obvious are things like: not having a vehicle, never having money, having to check in a lot, tales of extreme jealousy or possessiveness , missing work a lot, not being “allowed” to go places, fear of doing or saying something that their partner won’t like, tales of threatening or hurting pets. Approach the victim and offer assistance. If you witness a violent act or suspect a violent act is happening, call the police immediately.
- Offer support. Know your local resources and share them with the victim. Encourage the victim to call the police or the local shelter/safe house. If you don’t know your local resources, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or encourage them to call. Let them know that you’re there for them, that they are not alone, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Remember domestic violence can happen to anyone. Statistically, women are more often the victim. But violence against men and LGTBQ people is very real and no less disturbing. Also, domestic violence crosses all racial, religious, and socio-economic boundaries.
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