By: Ann Kita, Director of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services
Every year the YWCA Greater Flint recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness month in October. My hope for October 2019 is to reduce the number of people who blame a survivor for staying with their abusive partner. Supporting survivors of intimate partner violence/abuse has been the most rewarding type of work I have ever done. I offer the following advice when you encounter a family member, friends, co-worker, acquaintance, etc. who share that they are in an abusive relationship.
Be patient with yourself if you don’t understand.
Be polite (respectful to survivor’s decisions)
Be persistent for change.
It takes time for a victim of intimate partner abuse to leave the relationship. This relationship began looking like a healthy one; fun planned dates, talks about future goals with romantic connections being made. The victim, just like you and I would do, is getting to know someone they are interested in. Being patient is not a crime.
The abuser who values control over their partner will maintain control by being the “perfect person”. When the mean words, forceful holds to show power, or the threats spoken quietly at the family gatherings begin, the relationship becomes confusing. Yes, the victim has fallen in love with her abuser. Falling in love is also not a crime. If the abuser was abusive 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the victim would not be a victim. Intimate partner violence is about the investment that has been made prior to the abuse. To maintain control, the abuser will always say they are sorry in order for the victim to stay in the relationship. The victim is being polite (respectful) because everyone makes mistakes in relationships, right? The victim forgives.
Doesn’t the victim get tired of forgiving all the time? The answer is yes! What is not understood is that the physical abuse, the emotional abuse, the financial abuse, and the isolation from family, friends and their community fosters fear and doubt for the victim.
The victim wants to be persistent in changing their life style, but when the victim is treated like they have done something wrong or systems do not hold abusers accountable for crimes that have been committed AND society keeps asking the question, “why doesn’t she just leave?” the victim feels defeated. When was the last time you felt alone? Did you honestly want to go ask for help? Upon asking for help and your voice was heard about how you wanted to make a change was ridiculed, the victims AGAIN feels very defeated. I know I would! We all strive for acceptance,
compassion and encouragement. A victim of intimate partner violence/abuse is no different.
I ask you to be patient when you encounter a person who is a victim of intimate partner abuse. It takes time to leave an abusive relationship. It is okay if you do not understand the victim’s situation.
I ask you to be polite (respectful) not to hold judgment for the decisions they make. Please tell them about the YWCA Greater Flint…we are a resource to support them. Domestic violence advocates provide the opportunity for survivors to recognize their choices.
I ask you to be persistent for change. Whether it is to always believe what a victim is telling you, or to stop the judgmental comments you hear from others, or to support a survivor receiving our services, you can be an advocate to stand against intimate partner violence/abuse by following the Simple 3 P’s.
What about plus 1? Bell Hooks in her book “all about love”, states that the majority of people believe that violence against women is morally and ethically wrong. The only way to end this is to challenge the “patriarchy” of power and privilege. Hooks states, “There is a gap between the values they claim to hold and their willingness to do the work of connecting thought and action, theory and practice…”
The plus 1 “P” I want everyone to remember is: change is a process. A victim leaving an abusive relationship is a process. Together we can have uncomfortable conversations and even disagreements, but holding to the value that violence is morally and ethically wrong, conversations for change are certainly worth all of our time.
I am ever so grateful to law enforcement who now attend trainings on domestic violence. I am thankful for the prosecuting attorneys and the judges for allowing expert witnesses to testify in trials to explain the counter intuitive behaviors. I am empowered knowing that community partnerships are helping to fight against intimate partner violence. Bell Hooks said “…many of us believe that to speak of love with any emotional intensity means we will be perceived as weak and irrational.”; the YWCA Greater Flint along with our community partners say differently. We stand against domestic violence with the help of the Simple 3 P’s plus 1.