Stemming Domestic Violence: A Community Issue
In response to recent violence within Lawrence, Executive Director Rebecca A. Hall offers insight into the larger issue of how communities can stem the tide of domestic violence.
The violent murders this week of a Lawrence woman and her two teen-age children at the hands of the mother's long-time boyfriend are heart breaking. They represent a tragedy beyond words.
As someone who has been involved in the struggle to end domestic violence for two decades, I must ask, "How can we, as a community, work to prevent this violence?"
News reports vary, but many who knew the mother expressed shock that her seemingly loving partner was capable of such brutality. Others appear to have been aware that the relationship was a violent one. Experience tells us that domestic abusers don't just "snap," resulting in a single, violent act. Rather, there is a continuum of abuse that escalates gradually, inexorably.
In his own chilling words to the police, the killer reportedly admitted, "This was bound to happen."
Combating domestic violence is a community issue: everyone has a role to play. Everyone must speak up. Research has shown that bystanders can be a powerful force for domestic violence prevention if we take the opportunity to step in before a harrowing event such as the murders in Lawrence occurs. Concerned family, friends, and colleagues should not intervene themselves, but should reach out to the YWCA of Greater Lawrence or other domestic violence service providers for guidance about how to encourage a victim to seek the services which can save lives.
Last year alone, the YWCA's violence prevention and intervention services, available seven days a week, every day of the year, provided support to more than 1,200 people--both victims of abuse and also those seeking guidance on how to help a loved one or friend in an abusive relationship. The YWCA helped 784 women obtain restraining orders at the Lawrence District Court, secured emergency shelter for 37 victims and their children, and instructed more than 1,300 high school and middle school students about how to recognize and avoid dating violence.
There is help and support available, locally and statewide, both for victims of domestic violence and for those wondering how to help them be safe. To contact the YWCA domestic violence staff, call 978-688-2645 or 1-877-509-YWCA; or SafeLink, the statewide hotline, at 1-877-785-2020. In addition to the information on our website, explore what Jane Doe Inc. offers by visiting www.JaneDoe.org.