Editorial: Domestic violence victims often need support and time

A recent editorial by the Youngstown Vindicator:

An alleged domestic violence incident that led to criminal charges being filed this week against a well-known local high school football coach has drawn attention to a very serious societal problem that often occurs in secret and behind closed doors.

While reports of domestic violence in the physical sense generally gain widespread media attention, a local domestic violence advocate tells us that she believes emotional abuse is much more widespread and often can be even more devastating to the victim in the long term than physical abuse.

“Bruises heal,” said Anne Face, the associate director of Family and Community Services in Trumbull County. Emotional scars from verbal abuse can linger for years.

Face is serving as interim director of Someplace Safe, a domestic violence shelter in Warren.

Face was quick to point out that there are multiple types of abuse — including physical, emotional, verbal. Each comes with a goal of gaining power and control. Isolation or intimidation, she said, are techniques abusers often use in their attempt to control the lives of their victims, “making their world smaller.”

Other methods of control might include power plays over the couple’s children and control of money or finances.

There are signals that friends, neighbors, loved ones and acquaintances should take note of — isolation is a big one. Experts advise to take note of things that seem unusual or “not right,” such as wearing long sleeves in the summer, or quitting a job unexpectedly and cutting off contact with friends and family.

Sadly, often by the time a victim of abuse seeks help from a shelter or agency, their support system has been diminished.

So how can you help?

Family members and loved ones should stand by, offer support and suggest where to go for help. They should urge the victim to seek help, but not nag. Most of all, if you suspect abuse, you should trust the victim’s instincts. Victims generally know their abusers’ triggers. They must be trusted to know that, experts say. You should listen and make sure they have access to the resources they need. They cannot be forced to leave. They must make that decision on their own.

Friends and family must understand that often victims stay in abusive situations because there are many dynamics in play, including things like potential homelessness or loss of finances, not to mention the complex nature of the relationship.

“You keep the door open … (using) gentle reminders that you are there,” Face said, adding that victims will leave only when they are ready. …

[The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.]

— Youngstown Vindicator, Sept. 3