Domestic violence impacts all in community
By Jane Benzschawel – Special to The Gazette
At CAP Services’ Family Crisis Center, we join in mourning with our sister agency, Women’s Community and our neighbors in the greater Wausau area as they seek to heal from the lethal consequences of domestic violence.
The impact of such a public and shocking tragedy highlights the daily silent reality of so many of our community members who are aware of, and live in fear of, the threats abusive partners make when victims and survivors of domestic violence consider leaving.
Domestic violence is everywhere. It impacts all people of all walks of life and identity backgrounds. There is no group or groups of people who are immune from domestic violence.
According to the 2015 Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report, compiled by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, individuals in Wisconsin have died because of domestic violence at a rate slightly higher than one death every eight days. Perpetrators of domestic violence homicides were overwhelmingly male and in 2015, 73 percent of perpetrators were male.
Leaving an abusive situation presents the highest risk of lethality for anybody surviving domestic violence. When abusive partners begin to understand they are losing their power and control over their partner, they escalate tactics including threats or completion of the ultimate control; murder of their partner, their children or themselves.
At the Family Crisis Center, we understand that reality and seek to educate the community to better understand this as well.
When we ask, “Why don’t they leave the abusive partner?” we’re really asking the victim and survivor to take responsibility for the choices of their abusive partner. We’re asking them to be alone and shoulder the burden of surviving daily emotional, physical, sexual, financial and many other forms of abuse.
Tragedies like the domestic violence murders in the greater Wausau area demonstrate why many victims and survivors do not feel safe leaving. They understand the dynamics of their abuse better than anyone else including the risks and benefits.
When our loved ones are experiencing these risks, it is easy to feel hopeless and powerless. We may feel fear ourselves as we start to understand that domestic violence poses risks, including life threatening risks, to all of us.
It is important to understand that nobody needs to be alone when facing the realities and risks of domestic violence. There are hopeful trends that clearly demonstrate getting help reduces dangerous behaviors and lethality.
Jacquelyn Campbell’s research shows that there is a 60 percent reduction in risk of severe assault when victims utilize the services of a domestic violence program. Her research also shows that only 4 percent of abused victims had used a domestic violence hotline or shelter within the year prior to being killed by an intimate partner.
Unfortunately, the best data on outcomes is geared toward victim services provider efficacy and not on treatment of abusers. There is a long way to go with shifting the responsibility, resources and research on violence towards those who are responsible for the burden of this private and public health crisis; towards those who choose to use their power and control to take power and control away from others.
Our takeaway message is that getting help from domestic violence advocacy works as a first step. Victims/survivors leave abusers every day and the majority of those who do leave are not murdered.
While it takes tremendous courage to break the silence, fear, isolation or shame that can be a common part of surviving violence, there are significant benefits for getting support in choosing next steps.
Domestic violence victim advocacy is about offering many forms of individual and group support with a focus on self-determination, giving accurate and current information about the community medical/legal systems and connecting folks with resources personalized to their individual needs.
Sometimes victims/survivors need safe shelter, transportation to safe shelter, accompaniment to medical or legal appointments, information about financial resources or opportunities and information about domestic violence and its wide-reaching impacts. Victims/survivors deserve unconditional support, listening and opportunity to be emotionally and physically safe.
Advocacy services at CAP Services’ Family Crisis Center provide all of these confidential services 24 hours a day, free of charge to anyone who is impacted by domestic violence. Advocates also collaborate with community partners to work towards victim-centered, offender-focused responses with the goal of holding offenders accountable for a safer tomorrow.
We encourage people to first and foremost support the survivors of the domestic violence homicides in the greater Wausau area and anyone known to be living with abuse. Understandably, fear might be higher at these uncertain times. However, the danger continues into the unforeseeable future until we, as a united community, take daily and determined steps to support healthy and respectful interpersonal relationships through education and seek personal and community accountability for violence that goes unchallenged around us.
Supporting the work of domestic violence victim/survivor advocacy services is a great investment in a safer and healthier community. We encourage you to support the Women’s Community in Wausau, CAP Services’ Family Crisis Center in Stevens Point, and any domestic violence victim advocacy service provider who is ensuring a safe place to survive and heal.
We encourage you to support community partners in holding offenders accountable when their actions and choices result in abuse, fear and individual and public safety threats.
We encourage you to hold yourself, your family and your community accountable to a standard of at a bare minimum avoiding violence and on your best days choosing loving kindness, compassion, respect and celebration of self-determination as an everyday practice toward yourself and your fellow human beings.
If you need help, you need not be alone. To talk to someone who cares about you and your situation, please call CAP Services’ Family Crisis Center at 800-472-3377 or 715-343-7125.
Be a safe person to be around. Take very good care of yourself and everyone with whom you have shared experiences.
Editor’s note: Jane Benzschawel is CAP Services’ Family Crisis Center director in Stevens Point.