increasing our awareness

Awareness of domestic violence has increased dramatically over the past 10 years, but it is still an issue many of us aren’t comfortable talking about- a fact that only perpetuates the misconceptions and stigma surrounding relationship violence.

Along with the general populace’s reluctance to address what can admittedly be a sensitive, uncomfortable topic, domestic violence continues a pervasive rampage through Inyo County….

As abuse counselors and law enforcement personnel can well attest, victims of domestic violence can be astonishingly resilient in their ability to tolerate mistreatment, abuse (both physical and psychological) and eve torture at the hands of their partners.

The reasons for this are numerous, but boil down to fear: of their abuser, of not being believed, of not being able to survive without their abuser, of the legal system, of losing their children, of breaking up the home, of being alone. This list can be increased ad infinitum.

Women and even men in abusive relationships are often also isolated from everyone but their abusers. Not only are the dependent emotionally on their abusers- with their self-esteem directed by the dominant partner- they are also often reliant financially, so the idea of leaving this person and trying to forge their own life seems beyond their capabilities and reach.

Recanting of stories to police are common among domestic violence victims, as are requests for restraining orders to be lifted.

Whatever a victim’s reasons for staying in an abusive relationship, the last thing he or she needs is our judgement passed on the situation.

All of us- neighbors tired of the loud fights at all hours next door; employers who may suspect a worker’s odd behavior and frequent absences are related to trouble at home; law enforcement personnel who find themselves growing impatient with women who call 911 on their abusive boyfriends but refuse to leave the relationship; even hairdressers who have noticed tell-tale bruises on some of their clients- would do well to educate ourselves on the dynamics of domestic violence, to increase our awareness of the issue and put ourselves in a better position to help.

As local advocates have pointed out, regardless of our profession, age, background or social standing, we will all, at some time in our lives, be affected either directly or indirectly by domestic violence.

And while most of us aren’t therapists by any means, we’re still in a position to help battered women and men, to offer our hearts, our support, our understanding, and most importantly, our patience and lack of judgement. Because even if we choose not to help, we should at least do no additional harm.

It might take only one exasperated eye roll from a neighbor, coworker, process server or responding police officer to shame a domestic violence victim out of ever seeking help again.

You may not know anyone in an abusive relationship- or think you don’t- but someday you will, and knowing how to help is the first step in actually helping.


This editorial was published in the Thurs, Oct. 21, 2010 edition of The Inyo Register and is the opinion of the Editorial Board of the The Inyo Register consisting of Editor Darcy Ellis.