OI Op/Ed: Let’s Shift the Focus of the Domestic Violence Debate

by Janice Thompson

Are you aware that you probably know someone who abuses his or her partner?

When I was first asked to write something about domestic violence in our community I began to type up the same information that we always see in these stories. Why we can’t just leave, that we are systematically broken down by an abuser over time, the numbers of our murders every year, on and on.

Then in all honesty, I became annoyed with regurgitating the same ignored information once again.

So let’s switch tactics. Let’s stop talking about victims and let’s start talking about identifying abusers.

I think that we can all agree that anytime we see one of these stories hit the news the reaction is that it is awful and that something should be done to change it but thoughts rarely go beyond that. We talk about victims as if they are the problem, if we were only more confident, stronger, independent etc.  If we would just get up and leave then this problem would go away!

The public often equates being a victim of abuse to a weakness and completely ignores that the true weakness is found in the individual who chooses to abuses us. We hear one in three women are the victims of severe abuse in their life, and that half of all women murdered in the U.S. die at the hand of a current or former partner. We know that men are victims, too. Same sex relationships are not immune to abuse but few statistics exist to show their numbers.

Do we ever come across a study or information regarding how many victims on average an abuser has? Do we ever hear a number relating to how often abusers have been investigated for abuse or how many times they are arrested but not charged? 

We don’t talk about the problem of the abuser and our silence is their best ally.

I say enough! Let’s talk about the abuser. Let’s talk about identifying them in our community. Just as you probably know someone who is a survivor of domestic violence you also probably know someone who is a perpetrator of domestic violence. You likely go to church with an abuser, you may work with someone who is an abuser, you have hung out and enjoyed time with an abuser, or one of your neighbors is likely an abuser.

Let’s stop talking about victims and let’s start identifying abusers behavior and send the message that they are the source of the problem. Things that we often hear about abusers:

1.     They just snapped! – This is a lie, no they didn’t. Do you know how you know that it is a lie? Because they tend to only snap behind closed doors or without witnesses.

2.     They get abusive when they drink or do drugs. Drugs and alcohol don’t cause abuse. Now, can they adversely contribute to a dangerous situation? Yes, however they don’t create something that wasn’t already present. Take away the substance and you simply have a sober abuser.

3.     “But they are so nice! I have known them for years and NEVER seen them act this way!” Yes they are very good at hiding who and what they are. Just as we have come to recognize that the bad people in society (child molesters, serial killers, etc) don’t always look like someone from a horror film the same can be said of an abuser.

There are so many things that we can point out about abusers but at the end of the day if there was something that I could convey to the masses about abuse it would be this: Stop allowing these people a pass by asking those of us who survive them what we should have done different, seen sooner or realized before our assault. Ask those abusing why they feel they have the right to hurt us, start asking them why they don’t just leave.

Janice Thompson is a survivor of domestic violence turned outspoken advocate after her ex husband and abuser was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 45 years in prison for crimes against two other victims he targeted with his violence in 2018. Since making the decision to speak and advocate for others she has worked to educate others through public speaking as well as education and help for victims through her page Surviving Domestic Violence in Missouri. She is also a member of the Springfield Sexual Assault Task Force worked with the Voices committee for the Family Justice Center prior to their opening.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in the OI Op-Ed are those of the author and may not represent the views of Ozarks Independent, our staff, our advertisers or Daleli Media, Inc.

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