At Home Deep In Your Binge

A Voice For The Helpless: The Harsh Reality Of Domestic Violence And What You Can Do To Help You are at home, two bags of popcorn deep into the latest season of Weeds when you hear a disturbance next door. In response, you lower the volume. The neighbors have been fighting for a couple of weeks now with raised voices and doors slamming, but as you hear glass breaking, something feels different about this. Concerned, you get out of your chair to see what is going on without being seen when you hear a voice scream stop hurting me only for it to be followed by the obvious sounds of domestic abuse and weeping.

What Do You Do?

Now pause. What do you do? You can turn away now, sit back down in your recliner and turn up the volume, avoiding all of the police interaction, paperwork, and statements that come with making a police phone call. If you did, could you sit with that on your conscience, knowing that someone is being victimized to domestic violence, helpless, and you are the only person who can do something about it?

Would you play the hero? Do you think that direct intervention could help the situation, or lead to a worse outcome? Your self-confidence may say you’re superman, but what if the aggressor is belligerent and has access to a weapon? Couldn’t you be hurt trying to help? Is helping the helpless worth the risk to your life and well-being?

Indeed, something must be done, but such a scenario needs to be approached with a measure of caution for both yourself and the victim. In the sections of this passage to come, we will be exploring some thoughts and opinions on what needs to be done and compare them against real-world, similar events, and their outcomes. Also, we will touch upon the panic-inducing, yet empowering, likelihood that no one is coming to save you.

Scenario #1: You Ignore The Victim

Let’s play out the scenario where you are aware of domestic violence but choose to ignore it. What could happen to the helpless victim of ignored domestic violence? Quite frankly, the possibilities are open-ended and could remain in a cycle of violence and relative peace; or the violence can escalate to murder, rape, child endangerment, etc. With so many potential outcomes, it can be difficult to gauge where your inaction may allow things to go.

While a perfectly reasonable personal conviction may be that you should not allow anyone to guilt you into getting personally involved in such a volatile scenario, what needs to be acknowledged is that victims of violence are often helpless because they are often ignored; sometimes to even the extent that courts dismiss their cases and rob the victims of justice. One report out of the UK by SkyNews paints a clear picture of this.

“The government has promised a major overhaul of family courts after a damning report found domestic abuse victims were being “ignored, dismissed or disbelieved” ”, according to the scathing SkyNews report. The report blasts the UK family court system for inaction on behalf of the real victims of domestic violence and for in some cases even making it easier for the abusers to perpetrate further violence with “frequently unrestricted” contact orders for the children and a lack of representation for the victims, leading to mistrials and cases that more often than not end up dead in the water. While extensive, this report highlights an issue that has been determined to be “systematically minimized” and brings to light a societal perspective on domestic violence.

So yes, while you do not have to get involved, inaction will only further the potential for harm to the victim and reinforce a systematic silence that empowers the abuser.

Scenario #2: You’re The Hero…Or Are You?

So check it out, Rambo. You go in there, guns blazing, to save the day. How does the situation resolve itself? Does your sudden presence bring the violence to a screeching halt? What if it doesn’t and instead it escalates the situation to an even more violent one? How will you respond now that your plan has backfired and you discover that there are no peaceful solutions?

For example, in Wichita, Kansas, published by the Little Apple Post on March 04, 2020.

“Law enforcement authorities are asking the public for help in locating two individuals in regard to a domestic violence investigation.

Just after 8:30 p.m. Monday, officers responded to a disturbance at a house in the 3000 block of South Davidson in Wichita, according to a media release.

The disturbance occurred between Albert Cruz-Aviles and his ex-girlfriend Peggy Ott.

Cruz-Aviles went to the house and dragged Ott away from the house against her will. A roommate tried to intervene, but Cruz-Aviles struck him on the head with a handgun and fired one shot from the gun. The gunshot did not strike anyone.”

The italicized portion of text emphasizes the danger of bull-rushing into such a situation blindly. While Peggy’s roommate had good intentions, how useful would he be if that bullet fired by Cruz-Aviles struck him, possibly killing him?

To drive the point home, as helpful as you want to be, your personal safety needs to be the first consideration before you intervene in a violent situation between two or more people, especially when there are unknown variables.

Also likely, you will stumble into a violation of the law and you may be charged with battery yourself. How can you possibly be in violation of the law when you are simply trying to help? In some cases of domestic abuse, the victim will not always rush to the hero’s side. Pop culture example: Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Rice.

Rice struck his fiancée, Janay Palmer, inside of a Revel Hotel and Casino elevator on February 15th, 2014, knocking her completely unconscious. Rice was seen on video dragging his Fiancée’s limp, unconscious body out of the elevator on a security camera, making the incident indisputable. As a result of this, Rice never played football again and was indicted by a grand jury on one charge of third-degree aggravated assault. While according to NBC News, Judge Michael A Bonio from Atlantic City, New Jersey, dismissed the case for the completion of a pretrial intervention program, what’s important to focus on is fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer’s reaction to the whole incident.

As the security footage of the violence gained internet notoriety, Palmer rushed to the defense of the man who hit her. While from an outside perspective it is difficult to psychoanalyze the factors that played into Palmer’s response, this blip of violence highlights the point: the abusee often protects the abuser.

In the wake of the Rice/Palmer incident, Palmer went on record to state “I deeply regret the role I played that night”. While Palmer’s response to the incident left the public incredulous, with it came research into the challenges faced by often helpless victims of domestic abuse with the Institute for Family Studies on the case. What they’ve discovered in their research is that victims of domestic abuse often have damaged self esteem or self confidence.

Sometimes they have distorted perceptions, as their abuser is all they know. With a damaged sense of self esteem, there could be a fear of leaving the abuser, with the victim’s distorted self esteem telling them that the abuser is the only person who will love them. Sometimes that damaged self esteem causes victims to stay because they “think they deserve it” or they blame themselves for the abuse. Control is also a tool of the domestic abuser, with emotional abuse and verbal abuse being methods of tearing down the victims self esteem. Sometimes money is involved, and leaving the abuser could, in the victim’s mind, damage their self esteem when they lose social and financial status as a result of leaving the relationship.

So while you may be playing out a heroic scenario in your mind, you may find yourself in violation of the law when you attempt to help directly, especially when the police get involved and for one of the many potential reasons the victim defends the abuser and you find yourself charged with forceful entry into one’s home and aggravated assault against the abuser.

Hidden Wounds: The Non-Physical Abuse That Leaves Lasting Scars

Domestic abuse is often more than just physical. Abusers frequently work hard to tear down the self confidence of their victims and make them feel tiny, worthless, and isolated. One of the most commonly reported things associated with domestic abuse is the feeling of being helpless because the victim has become so far isolated from family and friends that the victim feels that there is nowhere to turn to.

Control is an important dynamic in a domestically abusive relationship, and the abuser will do whatever he or she deems necessary to maintain it, including threatening children and other loved ones. With control being so important to the abuser, the abuser’s victim doing anything outside of the lines set by the abuser would be seen, in the abuser’s mind, as a violation of the relationship and duly punished. Victims seeking resources and help can often be seen as a violation or betrayal of the relationship in the mind of the abuser, making the risk to the victim not worth the expense of trying to leave such a volatile situation.

Victims often report diminished or “unrecoverable” self confidence at the conclusion of their ordeal and are often left traumatized by the psychological damage of mental abuse. Victim self confidence post abuse often requires therapy to recover, depending on the extent of the trauma to the victim, with reportedly lower levels of self confidence in female survivors of domestic abuse versus male survivors.

Self confidence, esteem, loved ones, and physical trauma are easy targets for abusers, however, and any attempt to leave the situation is often problematic for the victim. An appalling number of domestic abuse survivors report their abuser being found in violation of protection orders with the first few months of it being issued, going as far as stalking and harassment by the abuser post relationship.

In conclusion, while there are no simple, easy, or clear cut solutions to domestically abusive relationships, if you are personally aware of such a thing, the last thing you can do is ignore it. Speak to a counselor or law enforcement first on the correct course of action to take and exercise a measure of caution and sensitivity for the victim’s safety and your own, regardless if it is a man or a woman being abused.

“Stop Asking Why They Keep Doing It And Start Asking Why You Keep Allowing It”

18 thoughts on “What Do You Do When You Hear “Help””

  1. Domestic abuse is a very hard situation to handle, because the police often can’t do anything unless there’s a complaint by the victim, if they’re an adult. So getting the police involved could make the situation worse for the client, rather than better. You could also find the abuser then wants to punish you for getting involved. So unless you think theirs an immediate danger to minors or to the life of the victim, getting the police involved might not be the best move.

    However, you could try contacting local domestic abuse services for advice and support. They might be able to suggest the best way to support the target of abuse, that keeps everyone safe from retaliations.

    That said, me and my friends did step in to protect a woman being attacked by her partner in the street and took her back to ours to keep them safe. Change are though, she returned to him after that night

    1. That has been my overall experience. However I did have one person who reached out to me for help. It was strange because she was a former tenant that I wouldn’t have considered a friend. But I went and picked her up and she never went back. So for all the times I tried I remind myself that even one is a difference.

  2. Once abuse starts, it never stops no matter how much the abuser begs and pleads that they’ll not do it again. Thanks for your insightful writing on this societal problem..

  3. Beautifully written piece of a haunting subject. Domestic abuse is disturbingly common and yet so often invisible. Even the stats that are shared and the stories we hear are the tip of the iceberg of what’s actually going on.

  4. This is a very sore subject to me and a huge NO NO!!!! Nothing justifies domestic abuse and nothing justifies a person accepting it, nothing….

    1. I agree. Because of my personal experience of both witnessing and experiencing it how people react to it fascinates me. our brains reactions are so powerful.

    1. Yes I agree it’s a hard subject to think about. It has always made me wonder though why so many people are reluctant to help when they witness it.

  5. Thanks for writing such a difficult topic on domestic abuse. If I ever encounter someone in this situation, I would definitely want to help and not let the victim suffer more

  6. Such a great post, you’ve really broken down not only what to do but also the reasons why someone may stay with a person who is abusing them. Because of lack of self esteem or financial reasons, thanks for sharing this wonderful post!

  7. A very close friend of mine confided to me that she’s been verbally and emotionally abused by her husband for years! It is really heartbreaking but all I could do is just be with her, give her advice and support.

  8. I avoid getting involved unless I have been personally asked to. Until the abused are ready to seek help, no matter how much help you offer them, they will find an excuse to continue allowing the abuse

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