In the dynamics of abuse between intimate partners, one emotion rises above the rest: fear.
Within the cycle of control and power, there is a deep, far-reaching terror that prevents victims from seeking help. That includes fear of retaliation from the perpetrator; community backlash and judgment; rejection by family and friends; not being believed; negative impact on children within the family; and surviving financially and emotionally without the other person.
The fear of death for victims of domestic violenec is very real. Around 4,000 women die each year due to DV and of those homicides, 75% of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship or after the relationship had ended.
It requires tremendous fortitude to get out of an abusive relationship, report domestic violence or sexual assault and endure legal proceedings. As someone who writes about this topic frequently, I remain in awe of the victims who are raising their voices against those who have hurt them and the work of our law enforcement, court system and advocacy groups who labor tirelessly to create positive change in our communities. We are committed to covering this topic within our pages because education and awareness are the keys to prevention.
Anyone can be a victim of abuse. There is no “typical” profile in relation to age, background, ethnicity, education or economic level. Violence in relationships occurs when one person feels entitled to power and control over their partner and chooses to abuse in order to gain and maintain that control.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner or former partner, and 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
There is an abundance of information online. If it’s safe for you to navigate to a website (some abusers monitor internet usage carefully) visit www.hotline.org for resources like identifying abuse and creating a safety plan and free, confidential help 24/7 via the live chat feature or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text START to 88788. The organization is currently experiencing unusually high call and chat volume so wait time may be longer than 15 minutes. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
Locally, SAFE San Juans strives to prevent and eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault through victim services, education, community awareness and cultural and social change. Services are free and confidential. All you have to do is reach out and someone will be by your side to help you navigate the process. SAFE staff is kind, patient and dedicated to those they serve. Visit www.safesj.org or call the 24/7 hotlines available on each island: 360-378-2345, 360-376-1234 and 360-468-4567.
For those who are taking back their power one step at a time, your strength is inspiring. There are few things as strenuous as overcoming fear. For those who aren’t ready or don’t know where to turn or aren’t even sure if they are experiencing abuse, I want you to know you are not alone. There is a whole network of people who will lift you up and help you reach your full potential and live a life free from abuse. We all deserve to feel safe.