Failure to Respond - Domestic Violence
I do not live in fear.
The choices I make today are not formed from a mind swirling in chaos weighing the thoughts of "do I stay because I need to feed my children?" or "do I leave and flee into poverty to save my life?"
While today I may be one of the lucky ones, six years ago I felt as if I was anything but that. I am not sure why I am one of the lucky ones - but I do know I am one of the few. I left with my life intact - it came close to me never breathing again - I am a lucky one.
Zina Haughton, unfortunately, cannot say this. The threats her husband, her abuser, made against her life were carried out. On the day she was murdered by her husband, two other women standing by her lost their lives - Seven in total had their lives changed. The headlines this week across the nation speak to the domestic violence - the murder suicide - that occurred last weekend in a spa near Milwaukee. Thousands of women read the stories while their hearts sink and nightmares of predictions form in their heads. They are the ones living in the fear - trying to form decisions with their minds swirling in the chaos domestic violence creates.
To say living in domestic violence is like living in a war zone is not a stretch of the imagination The oppression of the violence is real. There are days when the explosions do not happen, and on those days you step over the debris and pretend life is normal. You adapt to a life others may never understand and can only shake their heads at.
Sadly, our society still has a long way to go in not only understanding domestic violence but also in responding to it. Society still make judgments of those living in it and returning to it. Judgments that are formed by a mind not living in the destruction of a war zone.
We can understand the plight of refugees but so often than not our society does not respect the plight of victims trying to be free.
The Response to domestic violence still is severely lacking in one basic element - the one thing needed in providing a foundation for victims to step onto - and that element is an understanding.
Understanding that when a victim does reach out and let you into their world they are making a choice to risk their future - and their lives.
In the Haughton case we are learning over the years Zina reached out numerous times. There's documentation of police responding to calls to the Haughton home - domestic disturbance calls. Unfortunately, showing up was all they did - the response appears to have ended there. No arrests were made - no consequences dished out to the abuser - no foundation for Zina to step forward on.
Some will most likely place the blame on her and say , "Well, she probably didn't press charges."
I can agree that she may have downplayed the impact on her - she, may have said, "I don't want him arrested" or "He did do this, but I have no bruises or pain."
When that happens, and the debris of the war zone is all about, a victim is trying to do what their instincts are telling them to do ..to them that IS surviving.
Remember they are living with that swirling chaos in their minds - their mind is replaying all the threats against their lives - the fears of the unknown - the shame of failure - trying to look strong when their soul is feeling weak - and probably feeling like a wounded child who all they want is to be loved by those they love or have loved.
Wounded children act up, they act out, and sometimes they just retreat. We know children need love, unconditional love to thrive - they need an "understanding" from others when they make bad choices their pain dictated to them - Victims living in domestic violence need the same. Their wounds need to be soothed, and protected from further damage. It's the only way they can heal to leave - to survive.
That is key to the response - and that is what our society severely lacks in the response.
In Wisconsin we have something known as a mandatory arrest. Police should when responding to a domestic disturbance take the abuser in custody - arrest them - regardless of how that victim - that wounded soul is acting out or says.
It is written to allow for a "safe zone" for the victim to step forward on - to give them time to seek refuge and resources. However "mandatory" the law says it is, there is still discretion at the scene of the disturbance. Unfortunately, too often - that discretion tells those who respond that no crime has been committed.
The laws were written with the victim in mind, unfortunately those carrying it out sometimes are walking in with their own wounds - sometimes they themselves are abusers...they have issues with power and control - or they haven't had a proper education in understanding the dynamics of domestic violence
Perhaps they were given the material to understand it - they may be able to quote it - but unless they can comprehend and recognize a situation for all the unspoken truths, a failure to truly respond causes more damage than protection.
Would we be comfortable in sending a nurse into a blazing fire rather than a fireman?
Do you want your plumber to diagnose and treat your heart attack?
If we ever truly hope to combat domestic violence and end the cycle of destruction it creates on our society then we need to start understanding it - and understanding those who live in it -
We send SWAT and other tactical teams in to handle a gunman -
Trained emergency responders answer emergency medical calls-
Those answering domestic violence calls need to be not just trained but evaluated to ensure they can diagnose the situation for what it truly is.
Until we do that all the attention - the funding - we spend on addressing domestic violence is being wasted.
Domestic violence will continue to infiltrate our homes - our communities - children will grow up in it and take their wounds to our streets - our schools - they will grow trying to find anything to alleviate the pain .....drugs and alcohol...women trying to survive in a failed response will remain in poverty - crimes of desperation will plague our court systems - the chaos will thrive.