Witness to domestic violence

Domestic violence usually happens where there are no witnesses. But occasionally you might see something as it unfolds, like Tess did. She tried to write it off as a hot, humid summer day that brought out heat-related short tempers. But that didn’t feel right to her.

Tess parked her car at a store and started to walk across the parking lot. She noticed a young woman pushing a cart filled with bags of her purchases. But she didn’t pay much attention until she heard an angry male voice raging at someone. When she looked back, there was a big man sitting in a car waiting, gripping the steering wheel. Tess hadn’t heard a word the man said. He was screaming at the woman who had been pushing the cart toward the car. The woman tried to appease him. She couldn’t stow her purchases in the car fast enough. But he kept yelling at her. Tess didn’t understand why he didn’t get out of the car and help the woman instead of screaming at her. Did she become clumsy as she tried to rush? Did that make him all the more aggressive toward her? Tess tried to assess the situation.

Should she do something? Maybe try to get him to calm down? He sounded very angry. Would he pull a gun from somewhere and shoot her for meddling in his business? Would her interference make things much worse for the young woman when she got home … behind those closed doors? So she did nothing.

Not doing something seemed very wrong to Tess. But she just wasn’t sure what she should do. She almost took out her smart phone to take a picture of the car, the man, maybe the license plates. She could take it to the police and they might be able to check on the woman’s well being when they ran the registration on the car. Instead she minded her own business and went inside the store. And for the rest of the day she thought about that woman who might have received a beating when they got home, when they were behind closed doors.

Recent research has surprised researchers and those professionals who work with battered women: Brain injury is common in domestic violence. But too often brain injuries go undetected even when the victim goes to the hospital. The Ohio State University and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network conducted a study that “suggests brain injury caused by blows to the head and oxygen deprivation are likely ongoing health issues for many domestic violence survivors.” “Repeated head injuries and oxygen deprivation could cause more severe problems including memory loss, difficulty understanding, loss of motivation, nightmares, anxiety, vision and hearing problems.” Some women say they’ve been hit in the head so many times they can’t even count.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers “Tips for Intervening if You Witness Domestic Violence.”

“If you witness domestic violence in public, it’s important to take into account your own safety as well as the survivor’s.”

The hotline says an option is to gather a group of people together to stand nearby and intervene. Contacting the police is something you can do. “You might even record the incident with your phone to pass on to law enforcement officers.”

The only person who can make the choice to leave an abuser is the victim, regardless of what anyone says, feels or wants to do to help. Calling the police, telling them what you witnessed, will help the victim if she decides to press charges against her abuser.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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