Following an in-depth article by Eric Moskowitz in the Boston Globe early this week, there has been a lot of conversation in the media and in the community about domestic violence. Columnists like Yvonne Abraham and legislators like Speaker DeLeo have used this opportunity to educate the public that, while horrifying, the leniency that Jared Remy experienced in the courtroom is not a rare occurrence. For those of us who work in the domestic violence field and see the justice system fail too many survivors, it is motivating to hear so many community members, media outlets, and state officials call for systemic change to prevent another loss of life. But there is one message that we haven’t heard in much of this conversation: Help is available for those affected by domestic violence.
As we read these articles, listen to local radio stations and watch the news to hear the latest about this unfolding story, we must pause and consider how this coverage is impacting survivors of domestic violence. For someone who is experiencing abuse in their relationship, it can be very difficult and scary to consider telling someone about it. A survivor may worry that they won’t be believed, or that no one will help them. They may fear that if they are believed, people will tell them they should just leave, they should involve law enforcement, or seek a restraining order. Hearing how the justice system and those close to him failed to hold Jared Remy accountable for years of violent and dangerous behavior- thus enabling him to feel invincible – how can we expect survivors and victims of domestic violence not to feel afraid, angry, hopeless, and alone? There is so much blame assigned to victims who stay in the abusive relationship or attempt to leave and return to their abuser, but we know that survivors are at most risk when they are leaving or attempting to leave. For survivors who are hearing about this story, leaving safely may now seem like an even less attainable option.
We need to get the message out that support is available . Friends and families can make a difference if they learn the resources available near them. Whether someone is thinking about leaving an abusive situation, has already left, or chooses to stay in the relationship and wants to increase their emotional and physical safety, there are resources available. Domestic violence organizations like REACH are available to anyone experiencing intimate partner violence and to friends and family who are concerned that their loved one is being abused. Our advocates are available to listen without judgment, to support a survivor in whatever path they feel ready to take, and to safety plan with survivors. For some, pursuing legal action may be the best option; for others it may not. Whatever a survivor feels ready and able to do, they deserve to have support.
This public discourse has an impact on all of us. As we share our thoughts and opinions let us not forget to remind those around us that help is available.
REACH’s Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-899-4000. SafeLink, a statewide domestic violence hotline, is available at 877-785-2020. To find a domestic violence or sexual assault agency in your area, go to: http://www.janedoe.org/find_help/search