I once met a woman whose husband emotionally and physically abused her for nearly ten years. When he eventually tried to kill her, her 5-year-old son saved her life.
People who haven’t experienced domestic violence may shake their heads in disbelief at this story. How did it get that far? Why didn’t she leave?
If he tried to kill her on their first date, he wouldn’t have gotten a second. But abuse doesn’t work that way. It starts out slowly, building in intensity. It may begin with attempts at isolation, under the guise of love: Your friends are rude; you shouldn’t hang out with them. They don’t love you like I do.
It can also start with the slow erosion of self-esteem: I love you so much, and you treat me so badly. If you would only. . . . The suggestions are so subtle; they’re easy to excuse. But before long, the victim is emotionally (and often financially) dependent on his or her partner. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to leave.
People who are dependent on their partners learn to endure abuse, and often believe that the abusive partner will change his or her behavior. They may also be scared to leave, unsure what their partner will do and afraid to find out.
For these and other reasons, victims of domestic violence often need help leaving their partners. Those without close family or friends (which, because of an abuser’s longtime efforts at isolating their victim, is a common situation) must rely on concerned citizens and community resources.
How you can help
Call the Police. If you hear your neighbors fighting, and you’re even slightly concerned for someone’s safety, call the police. A victim of abuse may not call the police for a number of reasons, including fear of their abuser or embarrassment. Your call could be the wakeup call a victim needs—and might even save a life. Don’t just “mind your own business.” Violence—verbal or otherwise—is everyone’s business.
Educate Your Children. The age group most at risk for violent relationships is 16-24. Talk with your sons and daughters about safe relationships, and the warning signs of abuse. For more information about what to say or how to approach the conversation, check out our previous blog about Preventing Sexual Assault, or visit Love is Respect, which has great tips for both teens and parents.
Support Local Hotlines and Shelters. Since 1964, more than 1,800 shelters or refuges for battered women have been established in the United States. Initially designed to provide simply a safe place for victims and their children, shelters now provide a wide range of programs, including legal assistance and counseling.
The Hotline provides crisis intervention, information and referrals for victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends and families. Their toll-free number is available nationwide, and is often the first step for many victims—helping them find the courage to act and a local shelter to help.
Donate to Local Domestic Violence Shelters. Leaving an abusive relationship is very hard, and local shelters provide a road map. They give victims a place to stay, time to find a job, and help caring for children. To find and donate to a local shelter in your area, simply click the button below, enter your zip code, and hit “Enter.”
When you help a victim of domestic violence, you’re also helping their children. Children exposed to domestic violence can suffer serious long-term consequences, including difficulty in school, post-traumatic disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and criminal behavior. Studies have shown that even babies, who most people consider to be “too young to understand,” feel the effects.
By its very nature, domestic violence creates victims who need others to care enough to get involved. Donate now to help victims begin a new—and safe—life.
—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager