Providing "Help" to Survivors of Domestic Violence
Common wisdom says that if someone is being terrorized by living in an atmosphere of domestic violence, they should get out in order to save themselves. While this advice makes sense on one level, there is also something smug and self serving about this statement. There is an implied criticism of the person who is the target of domestic violence for choosing to stay rather than move into a safer environment.
Recently, someone who works with victims of abuse sent me an Email that I thought was both right on target and very poignant.
"I hope that people will be able to understand how serious and dangerous Domestic Violence is. For both women and men.
But I also want to bring another important point. It is extremely difficult and sometimes even impossible for a DV(Domestic Violence) victim to see how wrong and dangerous it is to be in an abusive relationship.
Most victims feel that they are not able to survive without their abusers. Financial factors are the main reasons why some victims decide not to leave that abusive relationship. They feel trapped and worthless because they have been brainwashed by their abusers for years. And because most victims have no education or work experience, it makes it even harder for them to survive. And that is when family and friends need to step in and help, not by criticizing the victim (which makes it even worse for them), but by offering actual help."
Many of those who are being abused are also fearful that, if they leave, they run the risk of being pursued and murdered. Often, there is good reason for this fear. It is common for abusers to threatened to kill their victims if they dare to leave.
It is essential to remember that advising someone to go to a shelter does not qualify as helping.
Here are some ways you can provide help:
1. Offer the victim and her children a place to stay and provide them with meals.
2. If this is not possible, look for community resources, safe houses, etc. that will accept families who are victims of DV.
3. Go with the person to speak to the police, fill out a police report and file charges.
4. Help to fill out the paperwork and file for an Order of Protection.
5. Driving a person and going with them can sometimes be just the "help" they need. My reason for emphasizing the word "help" is to bring awareness to the fact that these people feel alone and helpless.
6. There is a national hotline for help:
phone number: 1 800 799 safe
Not only encouraging victims of DV to take these actions, but accompanying and aiding them, can make a huge difference.
Your comments and questions are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.