Lack of Understanding Can Lead To Re-Victimization

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20160126_113025~2This article originally appeared in the January 24, 2016 edition of The Niagara Gazette.

“You might think that because I’m a domestic violence advocate and an author on the subject that I’d be immune to any sort of emotional upset when confronted with insensitive, misinformed or rude questions and remarks regarding DV. But I’m not, because I’m also a survivor. While I always try to be patient and understanding, sometimes that is simply not enough. As I am on the heels of one particularly taxing interaction, I thought it might be helpful to offer a primer of sorts for anyone who may find themselves in the company of someone who has summoned the courage to confide that they are being battered or are the survivor of DV.

Do not ask:

  • Why didn’t you leave?
  • Why didn’t you call the police?
  • Were you ever hospitalized?
  • How could you put your kids through that?
  • What did you do to make him hurt you?
  • How could no one have known that you were being abused?
  • Why did you keep having children with him if he was abusing you?
  • Are you sure what happened was abuse?

Do ask:

  • Is there anything I can do to help?

Do not say:

  • I’d never let someone do that to me.
  • I’d never have thought that of him; he seems so nice.

Do say:

  • I believe you.
  • You don’t deserve to be treated like that.
  • It isn’t your fault and you’re not responsible for his behavior.
  • You’re not alone.
  • Here is the number for the local DV help agency.
  • Let’s put together a safety plan.
  • I’ll go with you to the police/court to offer support.
  • You are smart, strong and capable and you will get through this.

Not knowing how to handle a situation that we’ve never been exposed to before is completely understandable; many people might say that they’ve never been exposed to DV or known anyone who’s been affected by it, either. But if we consider the statistic from nadv.org that one in three women (and one in four men) will experience some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, the issue begins to seem less foreign. How many people does any one person meet over the course of a lifetime? Hundreds? Thousands? This statistic says that each and every one of us has known victims of DV and do know victims of DV. They’re our family members; our friends and our co-workers. Shame and fear often times keep them hidden, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.

It is our duty as members of the human family to exercise discretion and compassion and to at least attempt to understand when we are told that someone close to us is being battered. The reality is that a victim’s life may depend on it.”

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