I’ve recently been confronted with the spectre of domestic violence (DV) again. Things had been pretty quiet on this front for a while, but then two events in the last couple of weeks brought it to the fore.
First, I was at a social event where someone who I know to be an abuser, both physically and mentally, was one of the guests. They were laughing and joking with a lot of people, making sure they were seen by all, while steadily drinking all evening. They then chose to dance with their partner to a song that was being played, and I was amazed when I realised they were dancing to Jump Around by House of Pain. Given their history of inflicting permanent damage on a previous partner, how ironic was that?
Secondly, someone else that I know who had moved away from home to be with their partner returned suddenly, and had a serious injury which needed hospital treatment. Only much later did we find out that their partner had inflicted the injury, deliberately. That relationship has since ended and the person I know has moved away again, this time hopefully to rebuild their life without fear for their safety – and what a wonderful life it will be.
My big concern is that in both cases, the perpetrators are getting on with their lives as though they have done nothing wrong, as though their actions were normal. In both cases the attacker blamed their actions on the person they attacked. (I won’t use the phrase victim, because that denotes some sort of powerlessness, and they found power from somewhere.) In both cases, the person who was assaulted found the strength to end the relationship and walk away. That took real courage, real strength, and I am in awe of them both.
So how can the perpetrators be brought to justice? In many cases, they can be very clever and not leave incriminating marks, no evidence. They can be very controlling so their target doesn’t have the opportunity to escape, or are too fearful of the consequences of trying to get out of the situation they’re in. Charities like www.refuge.org.uk in the UK can help, but it takes a lot of courage to contact them.
We (the general public) should not stand by and hope that someone else will step in to help. For all we know, we’re the only person who can hear or see what is going on, so don’t take the risk that you’re not. If you know of a situation where domestic abuse is occurring, report your concerns to the police, or to the likes of Refuge – they will know the steps which can be taken to help – but only after checking with the person being abused that they are happy for you to do so.