I don’t think that there is anyone that I know who would not be willing to help someone else who was in crisis. However, when it comes to domestic abuse, the situation is completely different from anything else. For those who have never experienced abuse, there is no understanding why a person who is being abused doesn’t just leave the abusive situation. For those who have been abused, it is very difficult to know the right thing to do when it comes to helping another abuse victim. Let me explain.
If a person is capable of physically assaulting another person, the penalty should not be a night in jail and then release so that he can go back and abuse again. It’s no wonder women don’t want to report abuse! They know that if they do, they will be abused even more when the abuser gets his next opportunity.
If you are not familiar with domestic abuse, such situations revolve around control. While most abuse situations are a male dominating a female, there are females who dominate males and same sex couples, too, that are abusive to one another. Most people can’t understand that it is never just a matter of leaving the abusive situation or the matter would easily be resolved this way. For many, the person being abused has lost all self-esteem and believes that they are not able to survive without the other person, that no one else will ever love them and that they are of no value. This, of course, has come from the mental abuse that they have received from the controlling partner. For some, the dominating and controlling behavior of the abuser is seen as love and caring by the recipient of the abuse. But, the worst situations are those that involve physical abuse and no one is in a position to know whether or not a person who is capable of physically abusing another person is capable of killing that person.
I was in a mentally and physically abusive situation and I did not tell anyone else about it. I got myself into that situation and it was up to me to get myself out. I had been threatened that if I left I would be hunted down and killed. So if this were to happen, why would I want to have anyone else feel any sort of responsibility about what they may have been able to do or not do that would have changed the outcome. That is why to this day I find it very difficult to advise anyone about what they should do.
I think that many people see it in a different way. I could say that if I can do it, you can do it but that would be completely irresponsible. This isn’t like a weight-loss commercial that tries to encourage others to lose weight based upon someone else’s success story. The main factor that most people fail to consider is the abuser himself. You don’t know how that person will act or react if the person he is abusing is taken away. The decision to leave an abusive situation has to rest solely with the person being abused. And that person needs to be supported in that decision to leave in the way that is requested.
No one should believe that a piece of paper such as a restraining order will do anything to protect another person from an abuser. An abuser who is intent upon seeking revenge on another will do whatever he wants, long before anyone can respond to help the victim. Just think about the increase in murder/suicides that we are seeing and how many other murders are the result of abuse that will never be identified as such because of the veil of silence surrounding abuse.
We keep trying to pass legislation to protect women who are being abused when I believe we need to do more in punishing the abusers. If a person is capable of physically assaulting another person, the penalty should not be a night in jail and then release so that he can go back and abuse again. It’s no wonder women don’t want to report abuse! They know that if they do, they will be abused even more when the abuser gets his next opportunity. Someone should be able to realize the reason that most women drop the charges against an abuser is because of the fears of repercussions of reporting the incident.
If you know of someone who is being abused, I hope that you will reach out to professionals for help. Talk to your doctor and let them know what is happening. They can advise you about what can be done and you can decide what is best to do based upon the circumstances of the individual situation. By seeking professional help and direction, you are doing the best that you can without putting yourself or the victim in greater jeopardy that may result in an outcome for which you do not want to feel responsible. And if the victim is an adult, remember that it is their decision to change their circumstances, not yours. After all, it just might be their life that is at stake.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, you can seek help through the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-SAFE (7233) – 1.800.787.3224 (TTY).
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.