Last month I wrote about purpose and stated that unresolved pain from the past had blurred my vision of my purpose. That pain developed from witnessing domestic violence as a child and being too small to protect anyone.
Rather than grow up to become an abuser myself, as often occurs, I became an ardent defender of women. At the age of 25, I was convicted of killing my sister’s abuser. My unresolved pain created in me a narrow awareness of the choices I had to intervene and effectively help. Through this column, I hope others in similar situations will realize they can effectively intervene in domestic violence without using violence themselves.
Domestic violence is a crime that transpires in the shadows of the community. Many families hide this painful secret to avoid embarrassment or reprisal. In most cases, the perpetrators are men, and many times the abuse results in the death of women.
The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women’s “Femicide Report” documented that from 2000 to 2010 at least 234 women were murdered in domestic violence cases. The report also identified several factors that indicate a high risk of murder in domestic violence, such as stalking, jealous or controlling behavior, and threats to kill the victim.
It went on to note that all abusers should be viewed as potentially deadly. The most alarming statistic revealed that over 60 percent of domestic abuse murders take place after women attempt to leave their abuser. The report detailed several examples:
Pamela Taschuk separated from her abuser and obtained an order for protection. But that piece of paper did not protect her from the bullet that killed her on October 1, 2009.
That piece of paper didn’t restrain the hands that strangled Candice L. Ovellette to death on August 5, 2009. And it didn’t repel the knife that plunged into Pauline Nash over 70 times, killing her on April 2, 2010. Their orders for protection were not very protective.
These types of tragedies may cause one to believe it’s justifiable to use extreme violence against abusers to protect battered women. But despite the threat these abusers pose, redemption is possible for everyone.
A man I met in prison shared a story of his sister’s experience with domestic violence. Fifteen years ago, her husband regularly abused her. Since then, her husband addressed and solved his behavioral issues. They now have several happy and beautiful children who were born after the abuse ended. You never know what kind of future you are erasing if you take a life.
So, what is the correct course of action to protect someone in an abusive relationship? Incarceration is ineffective by itself, because it’s usually for a short period and often produces an angrier abuser rather than a rehabilitated former abuser.
Running away and hiding isn’t always effective either. My aunt traveled from Boston to Minneapolis to escape her abuser. Within months, he hunted her down. His rage carried him 1,500 miles to our front door, where he pummeled her within an inch of her life.
One course of action that’s not taken enough is providing support and resources to the abuser. Support and resources are usually only provided for the victim, but this doesn’t address the source of the problem. The abuser needs help to understand the effects of his abusive behavior, the value of women and children, how to manage his explosive emotions, the responsibilities of a man, and where his pain and anger derive from.
Individually, orders for protection, incarceration, separation, support or resources can’t guarantee the protection of a domestic abuse victim. But if each is applied as part of a comprehensive plan, it can effectively diminish the risk.
Domestic violence is a volatile situation. If you’re the abuser or the abused, call out for help. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, get involved. Help the abuser walk away and realize the effects of his actions. Help the victim realize her value and her strength to separate. And contact the police and other domestic violence resources to help.
Sometimes the abused woman is too traumatized to know how to help herself. Sometimes the abuser doesn’t know how to address his violent behavior. Your help could save several lives.
Here are some domestic violence resources in the Twin Cities:
Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women — 651-646-6177
Crisis Connection Hotline — 612-379-6363 (24 hrs.)
Crisis Connection Men’s Line — 612-379-6367
DAP Men’s Therapy Program — 612-874-7036
Men’s Center — contact Randy Genrich at 612-822-5892 (anger management classes)
Phyllis Wheatley Community Center — for Men’s Program, contact Wayne Hunter at 612-977-3249; for Women’s Program, contact Judy Miller-Thomas at 612-977-3250
Tubman Program — West Metro, call 612-825-0000; East Metro, call 651-770-0777 (24-hr. shelter for battered women)
North Hennepin Mediation Program — 763-561-0033
Jeffery Young welcomes reader responses to Jeffery Young #213390, 7600 525th St., Rush City, MN 55069.