In our opinion: Dealing with domestic violence is often complex

  • Tuesday, December 10, 2019 4:23pm
  • Opinion

The most dangerous place for a woman is her home.

Statistics on domestic violence are staggering. An estimated 10 million people are victims of domestic violence in the nation each year. The number of homicides involving intimate partners is on the rise, with 2,237 in 2017, according to The New York Times.

In Washington state, 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94 percent of the victims of these crimes are female.

More than ever, people everywhere need to educate themselves, which is the key to helping end the cycle of violence — a cliched phrase that is unfortunately accurate in so many cases.

Week after week, prosecutors in Island County file an endless stream of domestic-violence charges against men, and occasionally women, who assaulted the ones they are supposed to love.

Police on Whidbey Island have dealt with some particularly horrific cases this year. In January, 31-year-old Natasha Blouin was horrifically attacked and murdered by her former boyfriend on South Whidbey.

One man is accused of attacking his girlfriend with a machete. Another man was accused of throwing, kicking and strangling a woman multiple times because he was angry that she went out with friends without his permission. A man purposely crashed his car into a woman’s car when children were inside. A man strangled a woman as she was holding a toddler.

Second-degree assault involving domestic violence — which almost always means strangulation — is one of the most common felonies charged in the county.

Domestic violence is also the crime in which the victim is most likely to recant. On average, it takes domestic violence victims seven times to leave their abuser for good.

But most do eventually leave.

The psychology of an abusive relationship is complex. Victims may fear homelessness and poverty, social isolation or the legal process. They may feel powerless and worthless. And victims, more than anyone, understand the very real threat; a woman is in the greatest danger after she leaves an abuser or testifies against him.

Understanding is key to helping. Advocates say, for example, that friends and family should offer love and support instead of judgment and incredulity to victims who choose to stay with an abuser. Let them know that help is always there and that they have worth.

There are many resources for victims and those who want to help them. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a lot of information online and can be reached at 1-800-799-7233. “No Visible Bruises” is a powerful new book on the subject by journalist Rachel Louise Snyder.

Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Violence provides free, confidential help in Island County. The 24-hour crisis line is 360-675-2232 or 1-800-215-5669.

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