Do you feel safe in your home? I was recently asked this question during on a Telehealth call to my new provider, while getting a prescription refill for a medication. I wasn’t calling about a violence induced injury, but she asked if I felt safe in my home. Isn’t home where we all should have peace of mind and the luxury to feel safe, comfortable, and free of fear? Shouldn’t this be considered a basic, unalienable right?
October is Domestic Violence (DV) awareness month. Also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), it could be considered a somewhat silent crime, simply because there are so many unseen facets to it. Certainly, the physical signs are outwardly seen in the form of bruises, scratches, and possibly broken bones. But did you know that withholding access to money is a significant aspect of DV? And the name calling, belittling, and gaslighting (manipulation wherein a person sows doubt in the head of another, usually to undermine that person’s confidence or sense of mental stability) are hallmark behaviors employed by the abuser to maintain power over the victim? So how much do you really know about domestic violence?
October is DV Awareness month. It may seem late in writing this post since it’s nearly November, but I still feel it’s important to write, because I feel passionately about it and a recent change in my life has led me to be speak up.
October is DV Awareness month. I was just hired part time by a local county’s police department to be a part of their program funded by a Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Grant. This grant provides funding for programs that are part of the complex process of protecting women from abusers. Obviously, it’s not only women who are abused, but that population represents that overwhelming majority of DV victims. An eye opening perspective for me has been the identity of the clients of this program. I have always been very much on the victim advocacy side of things. I have worked in programs that offered first response advocacy, counseling, survivor groups, legal assistance, immigration services, victim witness assistance, emergency shelter and transitional housing, financial independence training, and more…all focused on the victim.
Now, in my office, I am surrounded by pre-trial officers, probation officers and re-entry officers. I haven’t yet gotten a full grasp of the diverse members of our crime fighting team, because I’m still so new, but I know we have close relationships with the County Prosecutor’s office, the Victim-Witness Advocates, the nonprofit who provides the first responder advocacy, and so many more. We sound like the Super Friends, don’t we? Many of these amazing professionals have offenders as their clients. These professionals are criminal justice types, former police officers, military veterans…Quelle suprise! Suddenly I am surrounded by people providing services to the offenders! Never before had I even been in the presence of an offender, of anything, let alone a perpetrator of my most loathed crime of personal violence!
So the new perspective I am seeing to the domestic violence continuum is the part where the offenders are provided a service (well, really they are REQUIRED to participate in theses services). This brings to mind a lot of intrinsic questions about offender rehabilitation, perhaps the most pressing, does it work? The sad truth is, many offenders were also abused themselves or grew up in abusive homes. So do we lock them up after arrest and conviction, then somehow their time incarcerated will magically heal them and they will emerge angelic, rehabilitated and nonviolent? No, not even close. In fact, many of those convicted spend little or no actual time incarcerated. But trust, me y’all, I have not switched sides! I am still ALL for the victim. However, the reality remains that the offenders also need to be taught new tricks. Rehabilitation such as Batterer’s Intervention Programs or the Duluth Model are designed to help teach new, nonviolent interpersonal skills to offenders. Unfortunately, these violent people need to learn how to be nonviolent. For those of us who don’t abuse our loved ones, punching, shoving or strangling someone who pisses you off doesn’t even exist in the playbook. But for some it does, and they need to learn healthy habits. There are some who doubt the effectiveness of these offender focused programs, but for the time being, they are widely employed for offender rehabilitation. The team I now work with is focused on ensuring the offenders process through the legal system with constant supervision and guidance in order for them to be taught a better way to relate with others, while still keeping these offenders safely away from their victims. As much as some of my great advocate friends may hate me saying this, I guess this other half is pretty darn important, too, in the response system for DV. I hope we can all still play together nicely!
October is DV Awareness month. So, what can you do to help DV recovery and prevention in your area? Be aware. Look for opportunities around you to contribute, even in small ways. Drop off your old clothes to a DV shelter. Volunteer on a response hotline. Make donations via your favorite local DV nonprofit or on the Combined Federal Campaign. But above all, love your people with kindness, gentleness and respect. Love shouldn’t hurt.
Some really great resources:
Created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation in response to rising DV reports during COVID lockdowns, a hand signal has emerged for use on video devices to signal needing help when an abuser is present or monitoring your digital activity:
National Domestic Violence Hotline:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (TONS of resources here)
Office for Victims of Crime, Directory of Crime Victim Services
Cheers and Love,