Fighting domestic violence means getting help for you and your children

by EMILY A. SHOWGREN

He tried pushing her out of a moving vehicle but when he couldn’t, he slammed her head against the window. He punched her face until her mouth filled with blood and splattered onto her clothes and the inside of the car. He placed her in a headlock and bit her ear and fingers and continued to apply pressure until she came close to unconsciousness. He also threatened to kill her.

This incident may have happened in Hollywood but it was very real. On Feb. 8, 2009, pop star Rihanna was attacked by her boyfriend, fellow pop star Chris Brown. Details are found in the police affidavit.

Instances like this happen every day and if you are a victim, advocates say don’t be afraid to ask for help. In fact, it may be the only way to save your life. According to the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake (LAS) and the Utah Domestic Violence Council (UDVC), even if your partner promises it won’t happen again, it will.

“Domestic violence never decreases,” said Stewart Ralphs, executive director of LAS.

Some people may think that as long as the abuse is inflicted only on them, it isn’t hurting their children.

“Children are harmed by domestic violence even if they never see it and are never physically abused themselves,” said an official from Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) who has experience in domestic violence cases. “If there is even a possibility that a child has heard or witnessed the abuse, it is enough for a substantial case.” The official did not want his name used because reporters are normally directed to a public relations specialist at DCFS.

In the Brown case, The L.A. Times reported he comes from an abusive background. His stepfather used to beat him and his mother. Some mental experts have said it isn’t uncommon for someone to repeat a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over.

“Witnessing domestic violence on a regular basis can definitely have an effect on a child’s relationships later on,” said the DCFS official. “It messes with their self-esteem and the way they view themselves. However, it is no excuse. They are responsible for their own actions.”

The DCFS employee also said some victims who have been abused in the past will go looking for a mate who is abusive. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important for a parent who is being abused to get help right away. It could save the child from potential danger now and from other problems later.

Obtaining a protective order is a step in the right direction for a victim’s protection as well as for children’s. To get a protective order, the victim must be able to prove they have been harmed or threatened with harm and are a cohabitant with the accused. The process can seem scary but the attorneys and paralegals at LAS can help ease any tension or fear. Ralphs said LAS helps just under 3,000 victims a year.

“We do a lot of training with our employees on how to counsel victims,” Ralphs said. The victims who come in are usually not on their own. “The average victims we see are women around the ages of 23 or 24 with about two kids.”

LAS can explain what can be included in a protective order and how the process works. The agency will also help victims formulate a safety plan with tips on how to make a quick escape and where to go for help.

UDVC has a safety plan specifically for children. It has children identify where safe exits are in the home and people whom they can go to for help.

If you are a victim, don’t be afraid to go for help. Many places, including The National Women’s Health Information Center, remind victims that it is not their fault and encourage people to take extra precautions to keep safe.

Those who aren’t sure if they are a victim of abuse are encouraged to call, go online or go in person to find out. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, maltreatment of children is present in an estimated 30 to 60 percent of families, where there is some form of domestic violence.