This isn’t about the Supreme Court.
This isn’t about celebrities or fame or money.
This isn’t about due process.
This is about the time you saw flashing police lights at your neighbor’s house, and you later heard that she and her husband had a fight that night. This is about the call you got from your sister-in-law last summer, when she said things had gotten scary and she didn’t know what to do next. This is about the time your best friend from high school showed up at your house near midnight and asked to sleep on your couch, just for tonight, until things calm down. This is about the time your grandson was visiting and he told you about mom’s new boyfriend, how sometimes he “loses it” and hurts mom.
This campaign – the #StartByBelieving campaign – is not a social commentary on current culture, but it is about Tarrant County, about our greater community, and about what to do when someone tells you that he or she is experiencing an abusive relationship.
Abuse is about power and control – it is about one person who has power over another person and uses that power toward the end goal of controlling the victim. Instinctually, when someone outcries about abuse, we typically have two gut reactions. The first is disbelief. We don’t want someone we love experiencing something as awful and overwhelming as intimate partner violence – so we subconsciously disbelieve it. The second is our wondering why the victim hasn’t ended the relationship. This is a difficult thing to understand. In relationships marred by violence, we need to remember that the victim knows what is safest and likely is doing that thing. Sometimes that means staying in the relationship. Often times abusers will threaten harm if the victim decides to leave. Also often, abusers have followed through on threats in the past, so this new threat is very real for victims. When he says, “If you leave, I’ll kill you”, he means it. And she knows it.
SafeHaven exists in this community to be a lifeline for victims, but we also are the area experts on domestic violence. We are here to help educate our neighbors. We are often asked, “What do I do when someone outcries to me about domestic violence?” The easiest answer – and the first answer, prior to any tangible steps – is to start by believing. There are many things that can happen after that, but the relationship you may have with a victim needs to be based in trust, in belief. The words, “I believe you” can be so powerful – and empowering – for a victim.
So we will let the police handle investigations, and let the courts manage due process. But our role as citizens and advocates is to believe victims at the start. You’d be surprised how effective that can be.
Thank you for joining with SafeHaven and #StartByBelieving.
Kathryn Jacob, LMSW
President & CEO