Domestic Violence is a Community Problem, Requiring a Community Solution
May 25, 2012
The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA) sends our condolences to the families of Merlene Nesmith Martin of Andrews, Lynn Carlisle of Aiken, Shaquanah Jones-Brannon of Lee-Batesburg, Tyrone Hamilton of Jasper, and Ginger Anne Martinez of Gilbert —each of whom were killed at the hands of a current or former partner.
As we mourn the loss of these victims, and remember the family members, friends, and children who are suffering, it’s important that we also recognize the severity of these crimes. These were not simply “domestic incidents” or “domestic disputes”—they were domestic violence homicides.
Pamela Jacobs, Executive Director, SCCADVASA said, “Domestic violence is not a ‘domestic issue’ - it is a pattern of using emotional, mental, and physical violence to establish power and control over an intimate partner. A ‘dispute’ did not lead to these deaths. The abusers in these relationships made a series of choices: they chose to use violence against their partners, and then chose to kill their partners and themselves when this control was threatened. We must change the language we use to describe domestic violence and domestic violence homicide to accurately reflect the seriousness of the crime, and to ensure we are holding abusers accountable—before they become murderers.”
Tragically, domestic violence and domestic violence homicide are not uncommon in South Carolina. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson identified domestic violence as the number one crime issue in the state, and noted that more than 36,000 victims report a domestic violence incident to law enforcement statewide. Additionally, the Violence Policy Center in Washington, DC, identified South Carolina as 7th in the nation for the number of women killed by men.
Member programs of SCCADVASA offer local domestic violence services throughout the state, from individual advocacy or support groups to emergency shelter. Victims, family, and friends can call these programs with questions, requests for support, or help with safety planning. In 2011, SACCADVASA’s 13 domestic violence member programs across South Carolina provided shelter to approximately 1,800 adults and 1,300 children. They also provided non-shelter services—including counseling, court advocacy, and support services—to about 12,000 women, 6,000 children, and 800 men, and answered over 28,000 hotline calls.
Domestic violence is not a private issue affecting only the people in the relationship. The impact of this crime also ripples throughout the entire community, as those who witnessed the most public of these murders would surely tell you.
So what can communities do to reduce domestic violence? SCCADVASA encourages communities to understand that everyone has a responsibility to stop domestic violence, both by intervening early and by being aware of how we talk about this issue. Here are some ways we can all help stop this horrific crime:
· Believe victims. It’s important that we listen when someone says their partner is controlling them, being extremely jealous, threatening them, or abusing them in any way. We must take these allegations seriously. Believe victims, and then put them in touch with an advocacy program close to them. These programs can provide safety, resources, and help with creating a safety plan.
· Challenge abusive and controlling behavior at all levels. Abusers believe they have a right to control their partner. To get the message across that this is not ok, we must intervene much earlier. We have to start intervening with the 14-year-old boy who wants to control who his girlfriend talks to. We have to teach children and teens that a healthy relationship does not involve control or possessiveness. If we start teaching people early about healthy relationships, we can help prevent domestic violence in the future. It’s important that we hold people accountable for all abusive behavior—early and often—before it’s too late.
· Look for warning signs: extreme jealousy, isolation, controlling what someone does or who they talk to, verbal abuse, insults and put downs. In a healthy relationship, your partner should appreciate who you are, and encourage you to have your own friends, hobbies, and interests. If you are being abused or controlled, it is not your fault, and there is help available. And if you are abusing someone, it is not ok. And there is help available for you, as well.
· Recognize the power of words. Victims of domestic violence know the abuser better than anyone else, and will take many actions to increase their safety—even if these actions don’t always make sense to us at the time. Rather than continuing to tell victims what to do, or questioning their actions, we need to focus on the person committing the crime—the abuser. Instead of asking why she stays, we need to ask him why he continues to abuse.
As Pamela Jacobs, Executive Director of SCCADVASA, said, “It’s time we stop telling victims what to do, and start telling abusers what not to do. If we all take a stand, we can end domestic violence. We can save lives.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can connect you with advocacy services in your area: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
If you would like to get involved in ending domestic violence in your community, reach out to your local domestic violence program. Visit http://sccadvasa.org/or call (803) 256-2900 to find your local program, or to learn more about domestic violence.