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Change Starts With You

Domestic violence. We hear about it all the time. In the newspaper, on social media, on the nightly news. When you hear about another case of domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, do you ask yourself, “Why doesn't she just leave?” Do you wonder, “Why go back to an abuser?” or, “Why did she drop the protective order?” The answers are as complex as the issue of domestic violence is itself.

Many barriers to escaping abusive relationships exist in our society. Among the greatest, ironically, is society. Society expects us to be in a relationship. People not in committed relationships are devalued, looked down upon as having a deep-seated personality flaw. We’re encouraged to rebuild relationships before giving up on them - even if they’re unhealthy. In addition, employment opportunities that pay enough, not to mention provide enough work hours to support a single-parent household are few and far between. Top it off with the lack of affordable housing and transportation, plus a legal process that costs far more than most can afford and you have a domestic violence problem that never improves.

In many abusive situations, the abuser often gives false hope for a renewed relationship. They promise to do whatever it takes to work it out. They promise to seek counseling or medical treatment, to be a more attentive partner and parent, or to allow the partner more freedom. These promises are rarely kept. But, when faced with societal pressure and financial obstacles, returning to the abuser, dropping the protective order, and working to mend the relationship appear to be valid choices. Instead, they’re dangerous choices.

Instead of blaming the victims, we need to start by asking the more important questions which put the blame where it belongs - on the perpetrator of the violence. Why does the perpetrator choose to use violence against a partner? Why is the abuser exposing children to so much violence in the home? If the perpetrator believes the partner deserves emotional and physical abuse, why make all the promises to draw them back into the relationship? Why do abusers typically abuse multiple partners over time? Why do we often refuse to believe individuals we think we know so well could be capable of abusing a partner?

If we as a community want to make a difference for abuse victims and their children, we must put the focus where it belongs - on the causes of the abuse. Focusing on the source helps us respond more effectively to intimate partner violence. It gives us the tools necessary to build a more resilient community in which such violence is less likely to happen. We’re here to help.

The Haven Shelter and Services, Inc. helps the community build such resilience. They offer intervention programs for those who have experienced intimate partner and sexual abuse. They engage local organizations and institutions in a variety of prevention strategies. If you or someone you know is experiencing such violence, The Haven's confidential hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-224-2836. Hotline staff help callers through their crises and offer resources and options to keep callers and their children safe. For more information about our community prevention strategies or volunteer opportunities, call our administrative office during regular business hours Monday through Friday at 804-333-1099.

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