6 Ways to Promote Life Without Violence - December 2015
Last Friday, a young Hawaiian mother was killed in a likely domestic violence homicide in Redmond. Police say that Rebekah was shot in the back, apparently by her boyfriend while trying to leave the relationship. Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence are at the greatest risk of assault during and just after separating from an abusive partner.
“It’s a much more dangerous time for someone who is trying to end a relationship. We call the violence that happens—generally within a two-year window of leaving—post-separation violence,” explains Saving Grace Executive Director Janet Huerta. “It goes against common sense—most people think if she just leaves it ends the violence. What it actually does, is makes the person who is using violence want to retaliate. The person who is being violent wants to punish the victim for trying to get away. Before, just the threat of violence was enough to get the victim to comply. But now that they are leaving, that might not be enough to control the person who is being harmed anymore. This is why we see an increase in violence at this time.”
Because violence doesn’t stop the moment a victim walks away from the relationship, Huerta says Saving Grace advocates help clients make a plan for staying safe before, during, and after separating from an abusive partner.
"Because Saving Grace has dozens of years of experience working with tens of thousands of people—both victims and perpetrators—we can help someone who has been harmed with their safety planning. It’s the most important thing you can do, and not just once, because the tactics of the perpetrator may change. There might be stalking for instance, that is a new thing the perpetrator is doing and that takes a different approach to safety planning.”
For friends, family, co-workers and community members wondering what they can do to help, Huerta offers a few simple steps anyone can take to help prevent violence and keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
1. Recognize the Warning Signs
Because domestic violence is often hidden, friends, family, and neighbors may need to look closely for warning signs. Because people who abuse their partners are often charismatic and well-liked by others, these signs aren’t always as obvious as a black eye or a broken arm.
Red flags that a friend or loved one may be in an abusive relationship include:
- Missing social, school, or work functions without any explanation, or a weak explanation
- Talking about their partner being jealous or controlling of the time they spend with others
- Deferring to their partner in all decision making
- Changing their appearance, work, or other activities to meet their partner’s approval
- Acting afraid of their partner
- Receiving dozens of calls or texts from their partner to ‘check up on them’
2. Say Something
If you recognize any warning signs of abuse, it’s important to say something. It can be as simple as calling 911 when you think something doesn’t seem right, or asking “Can I help you?” to interrupt someone yelling at or being rough with their partner on the street, or reassuring a friend you’re worried about their safety and you’re there for them if they need help.
3. Be a Good Listener
Most people experiencing violence in their relationship will go to friends or family for help before reaching out to a hotline, clergy, or police. Abusers convince their partners that they brought the violence on themselves. Recognize that your friend may not be ready to leave, so don’t pressure them to do anything they don’t want to do. Let them know you support them and want them to be safe.
4. Know Where to Get Help
When a friend reaches out, or you suspect their relationship is not safe, gently provide resources. Saving Grace offers a 24-hour staffed helpline (541-389-7021) for non-judgmental support and information about safety planning and other resources. Other free services include emergency shelter, counseling, a restraining order clinic, hospital response, and supervised parent-child visitation and exchange. Saving Grace also provides all services in Spanish.
5. Give Support
Domestic violence agencies like Saving Grace offer free services to clients in their time of greatest need. By donating time, items, or funds, you can help ensure those needs are met.
6. Take Action
Government laws and policies can directly impact domestic violence prevention and intervention, and support for survivors. Let your elected officials know that support for survivors is important to you and speak out when that support is threatened. One way you can do this is by spreading the word about the campaign to #EndTheBan on gun violence. Two thirds of women killed with firearms are murdered by an intimate partner, and just like Rebekah, the majority of domestic violence homicides involve guns. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long been barred from researching gun violence. While allowing research on gun violence won’t stop domestic violence, it could lead to strategies to reduce the likelihood of homicide.
Here is more from local news outlets:
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. To learn more about resources for people experiencing domestic violence, call the Saving Grace helpline at 541-389-7021 or visit www.saving-grace.org.