EDITOR’S NOTE: This the second installment of a two-part series on domestic violence.
MIAMI COUNTY — With 2018 around the corner, it could mean a new season of change for victims of domestic violence trying to get out of a bad situation, even if they have tried before.
Why do victims stay?
A common question about domestic violence situations is why some victims stay in the relationship or the living situation with the perpetrator.
“It takes a lot to get out,” Caryn Scott, associate professor of Social Services at Edison State Community College, said.
A woman will try to leave an abusive relationship an average of seven times before she is able to leave for good, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Scott explained that “domestic violence is about control and controlling another person,” so the victim may be caught in a situation of isolation and fear along with lacking an external support system. The victim may be isolated from family and friends and economically dependent on the abuser.
“If you have nowhere to go, how are you going to leave?” Scott said.
There are options like shelters, but Scott added, “That’s scary to leave your home to go to a shelter.”
To explain the control factor, Scott used the example of a husband who would only give his wife 20 minutes to go to the grocery store, giving her a list and a set amount of money that he knew would only pay for the groceries so she could not save money.
“That was his control factor,” Scott said. “That can be just as damaging … After living like that, how do you get out?”
There is also a fear of leaving when the perpetrator threatens the victim, as domestic violence can be deadly. According to the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County, approximately 30 percent of women who are murdered in the U.S. are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, or ex-boyfriends.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control in July 2017 suggested a higher statistic, stating that over 55 percent of homicides with female victims had to do with partner violence and that the majority of those homicide victims were killed by male partners.
Victims may also feel pressure to keep the issue a secret. “There’s still a huge stigma,” Scott said.
The victim might have felt ashamed and kept the domestic violence hidden for years, similar to the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
If there are children in the situation, the victim may not want to take the perpetrator’s children away from him or her, which may, in turn, harm the children more by keeping them in that situation.
There is also the factor of denial about the situation, such as with families stuck in a cycle of violence. “Part of the cycle of violence, there is a romantic honeymoon after the (violent) period that feels very good,” Scott said.
After an incident of domestic violence, perpetrators may use grand romantic gestures and make promises to never harm the victim again. When that honeymoon period hits, the victim often forgets about the previous violent incident or explosion.
“There’s a lot of denial to protect your mental and physical stability,” Scott said.
The perpetrator may also cause the victim to feel blame for the situation, Scott said. Causing the victim to take the blame may then guilt the victim into staying in the situation if the victim does not feel like he or she has the right to leave.
What can be done?
In discussing the many reasons victims stay with their abusers, Scott said there are still ways out and there are still ways for the community and loved ones to support victims and promote a message of survival for the victims.
“I think we have to send a clear message: it’s not okay, and you don’t have to live (this way),” she said.
For domestic violence victims, Scott suggested that taking part in support groups is good way to regain their self-confidence and improve their self-image, much of which their abusers have taken away.
Scott added that the community and loved ones can encourage victims to report domestic violence and not keep the issue a hidden one.
“We have to encourage people to report and not hide and not keep it a secret,” Scott said.
Scott said that victims reporting incidents of domestic violence and seeking charges will hold perpetrators accountable and show them that they cannot get away with committing domestic violence. “If you don’t report, then the perpetrators don’t get punished,” she said.
For instance, if a perpetrator who hits a victim and does not get punished, then the perpetrator knows that he or she can get away with it. “Women aren’t reporting, they’re not leaving, the perpetrators are not getting punished,” Scott said.
Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak echoed a similar sentiment, encouraging victims to report domestic violence and advising other people to support victims they may know.
“I think the key to prevention is offering support to someone you know who may be dealing with domestic violence issues,” Duchak said. “Encourage them to report the abuse to law enforcement.
“Miami County has a very good Family Abuse Shelter in Troy that can also offer much support and assistance along with the county’s victim-witness program, which is administered through the county prosecutor’s office. Tri-County Mental Health also offers many services that would be beneficial to those needing assistance.
“On the jail inmate end of the issue, we have started offering life-skill classes to those inmates at the Incarceration Facility who are willing to voluntarily cooperate to help them develop healthy coping skills.”
Community resources providing help
Locally, the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County offers safe housing to all victims of domestic violence and their children. There is no fee for shelter care, and the shelter staff offers advocacy and case management to all victims of domestic violence. Individual and group counseling is given at no charge, according to the shelter’s website.
Shelter advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist anyone who wants to get out of a domestic violence situation. Shelter advocates also assist victims of domestic violence who do not reside in the shelter.
The shelter, located at 16 E. Franklin St. in Troy, can be contacted at (937) 339-6761. The office is open Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Shelter staff can be contacted after hours and on weekends by calling 911 or through the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services Crisis Hotline at 1-800-351-7347.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336