Breaking the cycle of violence
The staff of Tahoe Women’s Services would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Julie Lacke and to the entire community. When such a violent act occurs in a community, everyone is affected by it.
Feelings of disbelief, confusion, fear, anger, sadness, and guilt are common. What do we do with those feelings? Well, we have choices. We can pretend that this didn’t happen and go on with our lives. This choice is akin to burying our head in the sand.
Or we can talk about our feelings, educate ourselves, get support and offer support. We can do something productive to understand why the cycle of violence is so hard to break and how issues around power and control keep victims stuck in abusive relationships. When we learn that someone is in a violent relationship we ask, “Why can’t she just leave?”
The issue is much more complex and difficult to understand, let alone go through. It’s extremely hard to leave an abusive relationship. The majority of abusive relationships don’t start out abusive. As the relationship grows, the control and power dynamic gets more and more skewed. The woman finds herself looking for the man she met, and believing that if she loved him enough, he’d be good to her.
Abusive partners play on this belief, “If only you did what I asked; If only you were home when I get home; If only…”
Women often find themselves not only physically and/or emotionally battered, they oftentimes become financially dependent as well as isolated from friends, family and their support system. These aspects of power and control make it harder and harder to escape an abusive relationship.
What can we do as a community to reduce the incidence of domestic violence? We can do a number of things. For one, learn about the cycle of violence and the dynamics of power and control in relationships. Secondly, don’t judge or blame the victim. If you have a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship, be supportive, have patience and listen to them.
One important goal is to empower the victim to believe she does have choices and support available to her. Does she recognize that she’s in an abusive relationship? Does she want to leave? If so, help her create a safety plan. Leaving is difficult and often the most dangerous time for a victim. She needs to be saving money and keeping all her important documents in a safe place she can access at anytime.
Are there children in the home? They need to know how to get themselves to a safe place. Does she need shelter, counseling, or legal services? Give her the phone number and/or address(es) of our offices. Our helpline number provides support 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Please remember that ultimately, victims must make their own decision to leave the abusive relationship. No one else can do it for them.
Let’s not ignore this tragedy. We can use this as an opportunity to talk about violence, educate ourselves, and come together as a community to fight this problem. Tahoe Women’s Services is dedicated to reducing the incidence and trauma related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. We look to the community for support in our belief that everyone has a right to live a violence free life.
Christy Parsons and Melanie Cleary work for Tahoe Women’s Services.
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