Turning a Blind Eye To Domestic Violence…

… I don’t like to talk about my day job, the one that pays the bills, because it’s not prudent and things like that can come back and bite you. So let me be as vague as possible and hopefully you can follow along.

Today there was a shooting, a domestic dispute that escalated into a double homicide. Leaving out the details about the event itself, I want to note that none of the neighbors present when the shooting happened this morning were the least bit surprised. According to their accounts they always heard her screaming.

Yet no one intervened to her aid. Each assumed if she truly wanted to escape the situation she would have taken measures to protect herself. She would have called the police, filed restraining orders, left for a shelter, had social services or some other government entity intercede. The fact that she remained in that abusive situation must have meant she wanted to be there and so each neighbor turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to her nightly screams.

I know first hand how difficult it is to leave an abusive situation. I was fortunate. I had emotional and financial support from family who were able to secure me a place to live several states away from my ex-husband and his manipulative threats. I had the counsel of a devout priest and a group of strapping seminarians who packed up all my belongings and had me loaded in a moving van in under two hours. By the time my ex-husband was home for lunch I was well over 200 miles away.

My situation wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It hadn’t escalated into physical abuse but I saw all the warning signs that it wasn’t far off – the violent temper, the isolation from family and friends, the emotional manipulation and the threats of violence and harm. Again, not every woman has my luck. Clearly not the local woman whose life ended this morning.

It’s not as easy as you think, escaping abusive relationships, especially when women are scared into silence and neighbors, friends, or family do nothing to step in and offer help. Usually victims of domestic abuse live in shame and blame themselves – how could they have been so stupid to fall for such a vile man. It embarrasses me to this day to admit to my past marital failure and my stupidity for marrying him in the first place. It’s often that humiliation preventing women from seeking the help they need. That’s why it’s imperative when you hear a woman screaming night after night to intervene. Call the police. Call social services. Try to talk to her and let her know if she needs anything – even just a shoulder to cry on – you are there. Offer to make calls to her friends and family if she is afraid to call them herself from her own phone. Direct her to a parish if you’re too scared for own personal safety to get directly involved. Anything is better than turning up the volume of your TV and pretending to be oblivious to the horrors next door.

Lastly, never assume someone else will help her. Never assume she’s in the situation because she wants to be. Yes, some woman are addicted to drama and continually return to the same situation over and over – caught in a cycle of abuse. These woman still need help as well as psychological evaluations. Again, we should never assume this is always the case. And even if it is, so what? It doesn’t negate our own personal responsibility to at least offer the help, especially if children are involved. Sometimes all it takes for a woman to find her strength is to know that someone, anyone, is willing to help.

A huge factor in cases of abuse is mental manipulation in the form of isolation. A woman is isolated and left to feel helpless and hopeless to escape. In many cases she’s not even allowed to work outside the home so she is financially dependent on her abuser with no monetary means to move out. This is how abusers control their victims. When neighbors step in that grip of control slowly loosens.

We’ve all heard the saying typically attributed to Edmund Burke; all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Never do nothing. Doing nothing often ends tragically.

Please offer your prayers for the young woman who lost her life this morning and the second victim. Pray for her daughter who is now orphaned and if you need them, below is a list of helpful resources.


National Domestic Abuse Hotline

National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233): Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, this line is a resource for safety information and can connect any caller with shelters and protection advocates in her area.

VINE: Active in 47 states, VineLink.com allows women to search for an offender in custody by name or identification number, then register to be alerted if the offender has been released or transferred, or has escaped.

Women’s Law: This site has state-by-state legal information and resources for victims, as well as advice on how to leave an abusive situation, gather evidence of abuse, and prepare for court.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: A Guide to Community Shelter, Safe Homes and Service Programs – This directory lists domestic violence programs throughout the country, each with a comprehensive profile of services. Also includes listings for state coalitions and national resource centers.

Also, it’s not just women who are victims of domestic violence; Domestic violence against men – know the signs. And the Domestic Abuse Helpline For Men and Women.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Ironic Catholic

    So sorry…and an excellent post.

  • Ignorant Redneck

    I am reminded of a sign that was in our squad bay at the NCO academy–”If not you, who? If not now, When?”

  • amanda

    Kat, you are so good at finding the right words. Thank you for your passion. Today is a day full of supplication.

  • polycarped

    Yet another tragic case. You were right to bring this to our attention as a reminder that doing nothing is inexcusable. Without wishing to detract from this case and your overall message here, I do want to take the opportunity to also raise a hand for men who experience domestic violence. There’s no doubt that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children (especially when it comes to physical violence) but, just as it’s easy to do nothing, it’s also easy to think that men are always the perpetrators. Here in the UK, the legal definition of domestic violence (I’m glad to say) has been expanded to included things such as psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour. So, whilst increasing your vigilance and acting when you are concerned for someone’s welfare please be sure not to overlook men who might be experiencing domestic violence of some kind but who, often, wil be the very last to admit it for many (including more obvious reasons). Thanks again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andychrismartin Christie Martin

    I am so sorry for her. For you, too, because of her. I could have been her, but I was more like you. I got out. To be honest, I am almost having too visceral a moment to comment. Been there. Endured that. Holy cow have you been knocking me between the eyes lately.

  • Anonymous for Today

    Thank you, Kat. I’m more like you than her, because there were people in my life who were willing to stand up and tell me that This Is Not Okay, and that eventually gave me the strength I needed to pack up my children and get out.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I believe we need a change in law. I’m against divorce, but domestic violence is the big issue that gives me pause with that.

    I would like to see, on the first domestic violence call, a full medical workup of the person filing the complaint and a mandatory 30 day suicide watch on the person the complaint is filed against. Followed by a non-mandatory offer of enrollment in the witness protection program for the person filing the complaint.

    Assuming that the medical workup shows actual physical abuse, the 30 day suicide watch should be changed to mandatory commitment to a mental institution without trial; and the victim should get mandatory counseling.

    I recently saw an internet petition against Sprint for not separating a cell phone bill in the case of domestic abuse. My response, following current law and how badly it protects women, was to sign the petition along with the message: “If Sprint can find you, so can your ex, you’re not hidden well enough. Throw the cell phone into the river, get a prepaid one from Wal-Mart and only give the number to people that you trust. Then Run. Far. Fast.”

    • Marie

      Theodore, why do there have to be physical wounds present at the time of complaint? I can hear the inner dialogue in the mind of a woman who is trying to get her courage up to speak out about her abuser and seek help “Oh, this would be a great time to talk to so-and-so alone and then get out of this mess – oh, wait, no, he hasn’t hit me recently enough. I have no obvious wounds. No one will believe me. I’d better wait until he gets mad again.”

      Besides, Theodore, if your idea is that the wounds provide corroborating evidence, making the woman’s story believable, I would seriously rethink that. There’s all kinds of things that can all cause similar looking wounds (including deliberate self-injury). If the story isn’t believable without visible wounds, it isn’t believable with them, either.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        “Theodore, why do there have to be physical wounds present at the time of complaint? ”

        There don’t have to be. They may have well healed in fact. But any man who would beat his wife, is also going to neglect his wife and her health. A full medical workup is necessary to determine what help to get her- even if her only wound is malnutrition.

        The guy needs to be put on a 30 day suicide watch in EITHER case, because merely being accused of abuse, is enough to make a normal man a danger to himself and to others.

        It doesn’t matter if her story is believable or not. Merely making the accusation means that where there is smoke, there will soon be fire, EVEN IF THE ACCUSATION IS FALSE.

  • jt

    And remember that if there are children, if there is abuse it is better to have a one parent home than to have a house where children are in constant terror. I know from experience.

  • AnonymousCatholicGuy

    You want to know why people turn a blind eye to domestic violence? It’s because whoever steps in will suffer the wrath of the one suffering the abuse. One sees it time and time again:

    He beats her. Someone steps in, most often a police officer. That someone tries to put a stop to the abuse. Then she turns around and starts to defend her abuser to the shock and horror of the one who tried to step in to stop the abuse.

    Sooner or later people will just throw up their hands and give up on offering help that isn’t wanted.

    That isn’t the behavior of someone who is afraid. Its the behavior of one who has a chemical dependency, to be honest. The high they get from their abusers is addictive.

    That sort of domestic dispute isn’t my business, and I honestly don’t care anymore; I’ve been burned so many times in the past, that I have lost all compassion for women who get themselves into that sort of situation. They chose to go out with, and form a long-term relationship with an asshole who treats other people like crap. They made their bed, now they can either lie down in it, or get up and find a new bed.

    If their situation so horrible, they should grow a pair, and leave. Walk out the door. Cut off contact. The Crescat did it, why can’t others? Hell, even I’ve done it with an abusing woman, and I’m a guy!

    How many nice, boring, God-fearing guys, who actually want to be married and start families, did these women ignore, and flake out on throughout their youth?

    Those kinds of women will get no sympathy from me. If they want sympathy, they can look in the dictionary between “Shit” and “Syphilis”.

    • Theresa

      I think this may a bit of an over simplification of the situation. A police officer shows up in the middle of the fight or shortly thereafter and, for argument’s sake, the woman has to make a choice. So the guy gets arrested, then what? He bonds out, probably from somebody else and she doesn’t even know he’s left jail. Before she knows it, he’s back home beating the hell out of her. If there are kids involved, she doesn’t have the means to protect them, in or out of the violence. Making the 911 call might not have immediate results. But the failing to call definitely has immediate results. The Crescat did it, and so did I, but neither of us did it alone. And that is the point. I have no doubt co-dependency and addictive behaviors can often play a role. But those are features of mental illness and it would be charitable of you to remember that detail.

      I don’t pretend to know how you’ve been “burned” in the past, but I would suggest that if you just didn’t like the awkward stares from the neighbor or the occasional bird-flipping (or something along those lines), or heck, even if they egged your car, then you might consider restricting your definition of “burned” to that which happens by actual fire. Partly because that might be the real abuse the other person is experiencing. Another thought for you, and I say this in absolutely all Christian charity, is that you might consider seeking some help. I’ve no doubt the abuse you experienced was real and terrible. And you got out. But your anger suggests you are still on the road to real healing. After I got out, I was angry and I struggled to forgive myself for the choices I had made to get in that relationship in the first place. Anger happens to a lot of us and after a while, it only poisons ourselves. You may find life more joyful if you seek some spiritual direction to help resolve this anger. God bless you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      I did it only because I had help. Granted, I sought that help and it required a bit of cunning on my part but I never could have seen it through without that help. Many women have no one or at least feel they have no one after years of mental tearing down and hearing they are worthless, no one else will have them etc etc.

      It’s really more complicated than just “growing a pair”. Your response that they got themselves into that situation is a huge reason why so many are ashamed to get help. Abuser are manipulative and prey on their victims weaknesses. As another person commented, it starts with mental and verbal abuse to wear down the victims resolve and make them feel worthless. After awhile a victim believes the lies about themselves.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Heck, making the call alone in Oregon seems like a death sentence. There have been 8 such murder suicides in the past 2 years in my neck of the woods that I’m aware of.

  • Christopher Lake

    I will pray for the soul of this woman and for her child. I try not avoid the thinking of “victimology,” but there are areas in life in which people *are* truly victims. Domestic abuse is one of them.

    Not that the abused have no responsibility to try to protect themselves by leaving, but as you pointed out, Kat, it is simply not always that simple. It is so easy (for some) to blame the victim in these situations, but I think that we also have to remember the power of both verbal and physical abuse.

    For years, I suffered abuse of both kinds, from various people. Such abuse can lead a person to believe things about him/herself that, paradoxically, can make it harder to actually, finally *leave* the abusive situation(s). Moreover, once one is out of said situation(s), the emotional and mental scars can last for years and, in many cases, increase the possibility of future unwise decisions.

    I hope that no one reading these words will misread what I’m trying to say here. We are responsible for our decisions, both within abusive relationships and out of them (and hopefully, we don’t ever find ourselves *in* them, period!). We still can and should make wise and healthy choices. Even people who have been abused are not, thereafter, programmed self-destructive robots. We still have the capacity of choice.

    It is often the case, though, that “abused people” (and it is all too easy to think of, and put, people in *categories*, sometimes dismissing the raw reality and implications of what they endure) have been abused from early ages, making it harder for them to see themselves in a healthy light (as God sees them) and just *avoid abusive relationships*.

    Again, we are free beings, and we are responsible… but life, and the choices therein, are not always as simple as they may seem to the (non-abused) outside observer.

    • Christopher Lake

      Meant to type, “I try *to* avoid the thinking of “victimology”….

  • name withheld

    There are situations where it is imperative that one intervene, even if it means the loss of a friendship. Back in 1970, my mom suspected a young teacher was having a relationship with a high school student who was the daughter of a friend. As vp of the school, she informed the parents, but their daughter denied it. They chose to believe her and never spoke to my mom again. The teacher was fired without further recommendation. Later the father followed his daughter once and found out it was all true. I believe they were too embarrassed to apologize to my mother.

  • http://www.facebook.com/becky.colson.7 Becky Colson

    this is fantastic, I love it and it is very timely as I grapple with someone I love going thru this…. and not accepting help.