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Scratching the Surface — Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

More and more, I’ve become frustrated with a system that is far from a solution to protect survivors of domestic violence and their children. Status quo relies on restraining orders (which can be very difficult to obtain). In higher risk cases, agencies like Safe+Sound Somerset hide survivors of domestic abuse (and their children) in shelters like Victoria’s House, often for months, while their violent partners enjoy life’s freedoms.

The kids leave their pets, toys, school, clothing, friends, neighbors and grandparents to live in a house with four other families, who share a kitchen, living area and bathrooms. The adult victims also have a difficult transition into a new life in hiding. This hypocrisy must stop. We must protect victims so their abusers cannot inflict further harm in a manner that does not diminish the basic liberties of victims and their children.

Interestingly, most people are surprised to hear that victim-hiding is the norm in domestic violence cases. Yet, victims know this to be true. Safe+Sound’s crisis hotline will often talk to the same adult for a year before he or she decides to leave an abusive partner. Some fear that the risk of harm will escalate unless a decision is made to leave everything behind for a shelter.

Our first domestic violence laws in the US were enacted in the ’80’s. Most of my colleagues who worked in this field prior to that time are grateful for the laws we have & I get that. I can’t imagine the frustrations that must have been tenfold when domestic violence was overlooked as a “private family matter.”

However, the current laws are not enough. There were approximately 1,300 domestic violence related murders in the US last year and many of these victims held restraining orders of protection. Four people, including a 15 year old girl, were murdered in Somerset County last year. 

I don’t have a solution to this complex issue and this short article only scratches the surface. There are financial restraints, risks of homelessness, emotional hardships and many other aspects to address. There are task forces and universities that study these complexities, but we have not seen big picture, game changing recommendations in decades; instead mostly adjustments to existing laws. In the meantime, victims are afraid to come forward due to many legitimate issues that have not been addressed by our laws and that is unacceptable.

Domestic violence is an international crisis; an epidemic that kills thousands and injures millions of adults and children annually. The economic impact in the US alone costs tens of billions of dollars annually when you consider lost productivity, health related expenses, policing and legal costs. We need big picture recommendations to end domestic violence. Until we get there, we must admit that our current laws are simply inadequate. Then we can talk about solutions that do not re-victimize survivors and their children with unintended consequences.

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About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.

About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.


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