I am a Survivor and have rebuilt my life and can attest to the fact that there is a better life to look forward to. I address this to all those of you who have helped me or other survivors like me.
If you are in any capacity to help a victim of domestic violence, whether you be an attorney, a Judge, a doctor, a counselor, a teacher, a parent, a sister, a brother, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, or simply a friend — please help the victim and assist her as she strives to seek safety.
If you are in a position of a Judge, then you have the capability of assuring that name-calling, false accusations, threats and threatening stances and looks are not allowed in the courtroom. You have the extreme authority to ensure that the victim of domestic violence is not reduced to a puddle of tears once she leaves your courtroom.
To the attorneys, I ask that you try to remember the effect of your words spoken in court, on all around you. It is not simply about trying to get the upper hand in a trial, or a court hearing. It is about a victim who has been battered on some level, and who is seeking safety from the abuse. It is about a life that is crying out for help and aid in finding peace once again. It is about a person who longs to stop being abused.
The greatest respect that I have for an attorney that I know is one whom I have seen state only the facts. I have witnessed both sides of this spectrum. I have witnessed my abusers attorney stand off to the side and point fingers at me, cursing and ‘glaring’ at me, with my advocate at my side. However, I have also witnessed an attorney, who stuck to the facts and didn’t play the game that I have seen so often in court between attorneys. She stated only the facts and each time an accusation was made that was false, she was quick to point out the facts, nothing more.
To the doctor, I would like to ask that you be aware of any sign, regardless of how subtle it may be, of a woman that may be enduring domestic violence. I was able to hide it for so many years and no one picked up on it. Several times I went to the doctor for pain in my lower abdomen and pelvic area…intense pain with no explanation. When asked about it, I didn’t give an answer. I simply couldn’t tell about what was happening in the home.
As a doctor, I plead with you, that if you are even remotely suspicious that a woman/man/child is being abused, please don’t hesitate whatsoever, but seek to assure that your suspicion is not true before sending them on their way back home. It is better that you report a suspicion and be wrong, than to ignore it and find all too late, that you were right.
To counselors, I would ask on behalf of all victims, that you not only support them in your office, but outside of your office, as well. The most traumatic words I have ever heard from a therapist were these words: “I am here to validate your feelings in this office, but beyond this I’m sorry to say I cannot offer any support.” The words that I heard that day have played through my head again and again.
The victim needs to know that not only will you be there for them, when they are in your office and trusting you more than they have ever trusted a single soul, but that you will also support them when they must face their abuser and all accusations in court. This can be done in so many ways, such as writing a letter or making a phone call.
To friends and family, I would ask that if you have any suspicion at all, it is indeed better to report it, than to take the chance of brushing it aside and then witness the worst of your fears coming true. Your loved one may be upset at your reporting your suspicion; however, they can be alive and upset. Eventually, I believe, they will be able to acknowledge that you did the right thing. I wish someone had reported what they saw happening to me…I truly do.
When you are speaking with a victim of domestic violence, please allow them the time and the freedom to find their voice. They may be very quiet at first; however, once they realize they can trust you, they will open up and begin to share. They may begin by repeatedly apologizing to those they are speaking with. They may become suddenly quiet or timid, as they wonder whether or not they have angered or upset you while they voiced their feelings and thoughts. They may become paralyzed in fear that you will turn away and no longer befriend or support them. They may fear the loss of your compassion and understanding to the point of appearing paranoid or worrying too much. When you speak with a victim of domestic violence, whether it be in a support group, an online chat room, or privately over coffee and lunch — please allow them the freedom to learn to speak. Allow them the freedom to test the verbal waters.
Most men are not violent. In fact,men can play an important part in helping to stop relationship abuse. Violence against women isn’t just a women’s issue—it’s a men’s issue as well. Your male friends can do more than just commit to never using violence against their partners.
They can speak up and make it clear that they will not tolerate abusive behavior in others. Ask your male friends not to look the other way if their friend is abusing his partner. Tell them not to take a joke about domestic violence lightly, and let them know that violence against women is no laughing matter. Men speaking out against abuse can have a big impact.