Domestic violence in small communities
When I went through that process I had hard evidence- over an hour-long audio recording of the assault - even so, I found myself trying to prove my case through a barrier of judgments, even from strangers.
On top of that, there are the families. The generations of the victim's and the abuser's families who call that same community home. Add in their friends and co-workers, and you more than likely can imagine the lines drawn in the sand. Everyone feels like they have a stake in that nightmare scenario of domestic abuse.
In my case, I didn't have the families to worry about, I was alone with my children when I went down the path of justice. I count my blessings on that one.
According to the Rural Health Information Hub website: "In rural communities, survivors of abuse and violence face unique challenges due to the same elements that often stop them from reporting the abuse initially. The community or cultural understanding of the roles of women, close or familial connections of law enforcement or criminal justice figures, geographic isolation or remoteness, lack of access to education or social services, the higher risk of being socially isolated, and other issues play a role in how a survivor will be supported in a rural area. Community conversation and cooperation are important factors in establishing and maintaining survivor support."
Every hidden agenda people may have, comes out to play. Fingers are pointed, reputations are questioned...created, and shame weighs heavier on the victims, especially the children who may have been involved and/or witnessed people they love get harmed.
The isolation is bitter, it is harsh and it is real. It is a wonder why victims don't leave? Why they may not report the crimes to the police? Why, if they do follow through, their healing process is delayed or sometimes never even gets off the ground? A lot of times they will latch on to another abuser, who at first comes to their rescue as a form of protection.
Life turns into a free for all. A circus to pass the time of nothing else to do. A diversion for some who should really be paying attention to their own life, behind closed doors. In turn, the revictimization can be overwhelming and stretches to every person who loves and supports that victim...and even the abuser.
It creates a dangerous, volatile environment - someone can and will get hurt.
Couple that with lack of services and funding cuts to existing services the hope for that survivor dims even more.
Then there is the justice system. Unfortunately, most first and second-time offenders end up with a slap on the wrist. This usually only serves to embolden them, anger them even more with the "how dare she think she would get me."
Restraining orders are great for documentation purposes but they also can add to the silent rage building within an abuser.
Now imagine trying to rebuild a life in such an environment, picking up those shattered pieces while trying to heal from the abuse, past abuses that led you to such a relationship, and comments of "get over it."
Then there are the family courts. Abusers love to use them to revictimize their targets. Hearing after hearing, and often times with the same judge that oversaw the criminal hearing and might be so and so's neighbor.
If a victim leaves the abuse and steps out into such a world, they do so in a constant state of survival.
There will be lack of sleep, loss hours at work if they can find it, spinning thoughts and a constant maze of trying to avoid their PTSD triggers....with all eyes watching...all ears listening...and all mouths gossiping.
By the time those children are teenagers their anger will be real. Their pain will show in one way, shape or form. They may attempt to hide it as they lock themselves away in their room, they may try to slice it away as they cut themselves, they may try to numb it with drugs and/or alcohol, they may lash out at others for no apparent reason and only because they know no other form of communication for the emotions they are feeling, and sadly, some, may decide it is just not worth living in a world where they don't feel they matter or believe they are a burden.
If they make it past those teen years without their emotional needs addressed...they more than likely
will follow the steps their parents took ...and so the cycle not only continues but also grows.
And then we're back to everyone in that small community feeling like they have a right to judge...to gossip...to condemn.
So the next time you ask someone, especially someone from a small community why they just don't leave, ask yourself how you would even start the process with all these barriers in place. Also, then look in that mirror and ask yourself what role you have played in feeding the cycle...even if it was just standing on the sidelines, chatting with friends, as you ate your imginary popcorn watching that real life show.