He's a charmer. She's always by his side. He drops her off at work, joins her for lunch and drives her home. What a couple, the neighbors THINK. Reality: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE


Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Battered Mothers Rights - A Human Rights Issue.



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October 4, 2009

He's a charmer. She's always by his side. He drops her off at work, joins her for lunch and drives her home. What a couple, the neighbors think.

But behind that idyllic portrait lurks a harrowing reality: domestic violence.

He's constantly around her, even in public, because he's controlling her, isolating her from family and longtime friends. The neighbors suspect nothing; he seems so friendly. Yet her worried siblings and extended family say they rarely see her anymore.

MAYBE HE hasn't yet escalated the abuse. He hasn't killed the family pet as a way of taking away a cherished animal and sending the not-so-subtle message that she could be next. He doesn't sharpen his knives or play with his guns in front of her, displaying a look that implies the weapons await her wrong move.

But their relationship isn't like most couples'. He controls everything: the checkbook, the credit cards, her phone calls, her schedule — even her conversations at church or parties or neighborhood gatherings.

He gets angry if she's a minute late arriving home from errands or work — not the occasional frustration that occurs among any couple when one's in a hurry, but the type of outburst that says he controls her and she dare not cross him.

His is not merely an anger problem. His is not merely the effect of alcohol or drugs, although they may worsen his actions.

His is a conscious choice to exert power and absolute control over someone else.

SHE STAYS with him because she doesn't see an alternative. Her kids mean everything to her. She doesn't want to lose them. He can afford a lawyer; she can't, and abusers have been known to charm judges into gaining full custody of the children.

He is so skillfully manipulative that he has cut her off from typical sources of information about how to find help.

Then she runs into you.

YOU LIVE in a community that takes domestic abuse seriously, understanding that it's a vastly underreported crime.

Maybe you're the manager of the fast-food restaurant or gas station or dry cleaner or grocery store where she shops. Or you work at the church or school or day care that her family attends.

You've put up posters listing the 24-hour hotline for the Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service: (503) 399-7722 or toll-free in Oregon (866) 399-7722. Or your business displays leaflets with that information.

Maybe you're one of the 4,000 state managers who have been trained on reporting domestic violence, with thousands more scheduled to receive training.

Or you're a neighbor or co-worker who senses something isn't right. You don't push her; you let her know you'll be there whenever she wants to talk.

WHEN SHE does open up, you take the single most important action: You listen and you believe her.

You know that domestic violence crosses every stratum of society, occurring within every race, profession, economic class and neighborhood.

Domestic violence may be reported more often in apartment buildings and other densely packed neighborhoods, but that's only because it's easier for the neighbors to hear the cries and call 911. Such abuse is just as prevalent in neighborhoods where homes are far apart, hidden behind impressive gates and manicured lawns.

The one common characteristic is that usually the abusers are male and the victims female. But not always.

AS YOU talk, you mention resources that can help. You provide phone numbers.

You let her know that the Marion County District Attorney's Office has an entire team dedicated to domestic-violence cases, prosecuting more than 1,000 each year.

You tell her that the Salem Police Department has a domestic-violence response team, that a victim's advocate accompanies officers responding to domestic-abuse calls and that more than eight of 10 cases investigated by the Salem police go to court.

You let her know that the Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service never turns away a woman or man needing safe, emergency shelter from a domestic abuser.

You tell her, or him, that the crisis service has been around for 36 years, handling more than 200,000 calls and providing more than 100,000 nights of emergency shelter for victims and their children.

You tell her she's not alone.

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