Who Do You Turn to When Domestic Violence Shelters and Agencies Refuse to Help?
Heather W., Domestic Violence Victim
October 4, 2011
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – the irony that my abuser was born in October is not lost on me. Nor is the irony that his mother, a victim of domestic violence, was born in October. The entire circle is there. A woman raises her son in a home where she is abused and her son not only witnesses it, but is also abused. The son grows up to abuse women; his mother, a woman with whom he has a child, and also allows his child to witness his abusive behavior. I won’t go into whether or not the son also abuses his child, as the fact is: allowing your child to witness abuse is abusive in an of itself.
I left. I left so many times. I was told the abuse would stop. It didn’t. I was told I’d have access to resources and assistance and life would be infinitely better for my child and myself, if I left. There were no resources and no one to assist me in raising a child as a single mother. There were no offers to help me navigate the family court or the civil court. Instead, I was given referrals. I called and emailed agency after agency. No one would or could help, but they ALL were able to refer me to yet another agency they said would help. Somewhere in a box, I have a 3″ binder full of pamphlets, mailers, and resource directories that did nothing to actually help. I have an archive of emails from agencies and elected officials that refused to help, claiming it isn’t/wasn’t their job. Interestingly, the Office of Victim Services & Office of Victim Advocate don’t offer assistance to victims of domestic violence, unless you’ve also been a victim of murder – in which case, you probably can’t appeal to them for assistance, can you? The few and rare people that DID help, were from agencies I contacted out of sheer desperation. I didn’t think they’d be able to help. I didn’t think my problems were in their areas of expertise. I was just lucky that I found a few caring people who were willing to go the extra mile and try to help in any way they could. It hasn’t been much, but it’s enough to encourage me to keep trying. It’s been over four years since I left. The abuse hasn’t stopped. I’ve been told by domestic violence counselors that it stops when you leave. It doesn’t. In some ways it’s worse, because the abuser now has an accomplice – the system that is supposed to help YOU, as a victim.
Who do you turn to when shelters and agencies refuse to help? Where do you go if the police refuse to protect you and the courts turn a deaf ear? What do you do when the excuse for letting you and your child fall through the cracks is always the same, “lack of funding” or “budget cuts?” Where is the oversight and the accountability? Survivors in Action and Tri-County Crisis Center are trying to raise awareness and create oversight through DV Reform. Please help and support them in their efforts.
It’s October. It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s my abuser’s birthday, and his mother’s birthday. Domestic Violence affects whole families and impacts generations. Let this be the last generation of Domestic Violence.