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.

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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.

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