The Florida Attorney General’s Statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, in their report issued January 2011 found that “in 37% of domestic violence fatalities, family members, friends, co-workers and others were aware domestic violence was occurring.” In simpler terms, for every 3 women, men or children who die as the result of domestic violence, one died with others knowing they were being threatened, abused, battered, beaten, or in grave danger. Some of these may have been a murder/suicide. Far too often the aggressor kills the victim, or the children (or both) before taking their own life.
This statistic does not say the family members, friends, co-workers or others suspected domestic violence was occurring, it says they were aware. They had knowledge it was taking place. I’m sure many were frustrated in their attempts to reach out to the victim, trying to convince them to get to a safer place in life. It’s so exasperating to try to reach someone who is trapped in domestic violence, and yet they won’t leave. I know. At one time I was the trapped one, and my dear sweet mother did all in her power to convince me to leave. Far too often a victim just simply does not perceive leaving as an alternative or option. I did not leave until it became dangerously physical. I finally got it. Staying could cost me my life, and quite possibly the lives of my children. That’s when I decided to leave.
Are you aware of a friend, family member or co-worker who is being abused? Do you know what to do? Do you know what to say, or even how to approach the subject?
Here’s what you don’t do: You do not say, “Why don’t you just leave?” or “He is such a jerk,” or “Why do you put up with this?” As insane as it may seem, it is common for a victim to come to their abuser’s defense. And they are usually humiliated to find out someone suspects what they have been living in for far too long. They may desperately continue to try to hide it. For me, I did not want to admit what a stupid mistake I had made. That was my mindset. Now I realize I made a poor choice based on prior life circumstances, fear and intimidation.
Some things you can do to help are to simply say, “Hey, if you ever want to talk, I’m here.” Ask the victim if they will establish a code word with you. If they ever toss it out in conversation, they can rest assured you know they are in trouble, and you can get them help. Know the National and your State’s domestic violence hotline numbers. Here in Florida it is 800-500-1119. Contact a local shelter or organization that helps victims of domestic violence. See if they have a brochure you can share with the victim. Ask them if they have staff available to meet with the victim to help with the preparation of a safety/exit plan. And never force the issue, simply make suggestions. But, know what options are available in your area. Most important of all, we go right back to, “Hey, if you ever want to talk…”
Simply speaking up with reassurance could save a life. Don’t be that part of the 37% who stands idly by doing and saying nothing, and the day comes when you see a television crew, along with the yellow crime scene tape, outside your neighbor’s house. Don’t be the neighbor interviewed who says, “Well, I knew something wasn’t quite right, but…” as the body is rolled past you.
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Victim Support & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, bringing information and awareness to organizations seeking to properly help and support victims. Hear various interviews at the Broadcasts page of her website: orangeblossomwishes.com.