FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
We make the mistake of thinking domestic violence happens only to other people—people we don’t know who, for reasons we can’t imagine, find themselves in dangerous situations fraught with emotional and physical pain. To imagine that no one we know could have something that horrible happen makes us feel safe. Yet that idea is one of the biggest misperceptions we can have.
Domestic violence—physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse, as well as intimidation, stalking and dating violence—is a major problem in our country. According to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, intimate-partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all crime.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 people are physically victimized by an intimate partner in the United States every minute—more than 10 million women and men each year. Also affected are the people connected to the victim and abuser—most often children.
Abuse can happen to anyone; there is no stereotype, no classic victim. This makes it hard to spot victims of domestic violence. People being abused might act as if they are afraid of their partner, but they may just as easily seem confident, unconcerned, or even confrontational. There are as many victim types and attitudes as there are people.
Victims of domestic violence may endure the abuse for many reasons: concern for their safety or that of their family; continuing strong feelings for their partner; or the idea that what is happening to them isn’t really domestic violence. In some cases, they believe they deserve the abuse, and their abuser reinforces that feeling. All these emotions and beliefs are understandable when seen through the eyes of the victim.
The abusers are equally difficult to identify. They aren’t always aggressive or publicly cruel. Many are polite and pleasant in front of others. They hide emotions like jealousy and the need for control through actions that may seem romantic or appealing. They may always want to be with their partner, call them frequently “just to check in,” or persuade their partner to postpone outings with friends until they can both go. These gestures are a way of cutting the partner off from friends and family, so the abuser can gain complete control.
The national statistics on domestic violence are clear: There are victims and perpetrators of these crimes working with us. The numbers are too high for it to be otherwise, making it likely we will find ourselves in a position to notice abuse and its effects.
As colleagues and supervisors, it is important to recognize our legal duty and moral obligation to prevent and respond to domestic violence. Effective workplace responses depend on learning how these types of violence are defined and how they affect both victims and the workplace.
So what can we do? We can listen to the victims of domestic violence without judging. Our colleagues and employees need to be heard and treated with dignity and respect. We can speak out against abusive behavior when we see it and contact installation security or law enforcement if a crime is being committed. We can support the victims without blame if their abusers come to our workplace and cause disturbances.
For supervisors, this may mean taking steps to identify a work station in a more secure location or working with DLA or host-installation security to enforce protective orders or other security and legal measures. Overall, be understanding.
We can understand that we may not be able to fix the situation our colleague, friend or family member is in—but our support and reassurance may give them the strength to help themselves. Likewise, our disapproval and refusal to condone abusive behaviors may persuade someone to reconsider their conduct.
We can provide useful resources, such as:
-- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or http://www.thehotline.org/
-- State and regional domestic violence coalitions. Many cities and towns have shelters and other organizations to help individuals and families in domestic crisis. Law enforcement can help to find the names and contact information for local help lines and agencies.
-- Local DLA or host-installation Family Advocacy Program or Sexual Assault Response staff. Both programs have personnel available and eager to help those in need.
One of the best things we can do is let the victim know they are not alone. Help them reach out to friends, loved ones, local organizations or law enforcement for help in ending an abusive relationship.
Editor's note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarly reflect those of the Defense Logistics Agency or its leaders.