To the Editor:
Domestic violence educators often talk about the importance of the community’s response as a critical and valuable tool to help end intimate partner violence. Collective voices stating clearly, “Violent behavior in a relationship is never acceptable,” is not only the right action, it is a necessary one.
The recent report from Milwaukee about Mayor Tom Barrett personally intervening on behalf of a victim to say “violence is not acceptable here” demands respect. Confronting a metal pipe-wielding man who was threatening a grandmother and her grandchild, Mayor Barrett behaved responsibly by calling 911 to summon help. His quick response prevented any injury to the child and her grandmother, but it unfortunately focused the abuser’s attention on him. He assaulted the Mayor with the pipe, hitting him on his head and body. Mayor Barrett fought back, fracturing his hand. He was hospitalized overnight.
What makes this a case of domestic violence? The abuser is the father of the grandchild. He wanted visitation, and threatened to shoot people if he wasn’t allowed to visit.
Mayor Barrett’s response is exactly the response needed to bring an end to violence in our communities. It is a case of a responsible citizen standing up to say, “Violent behavior is not acceptable here.” Mayor Barrett courageously put the safety of others before his personal safety, and he deserves praise for his selflessness.
His act also points up the risks. How do we protect ourselves when we encounter situations that demand we act as a responsible citizen? While there are no guarantees, there are short-term solutions. Be aware of who is around, and what is going on. Plan an exit strategy if a situation becomes questionable. If necessary, summon law enforcement. They are trained and equipped to defuse potentially dangerous situations.
Long-term, community wide solutions are needed as well so that we can end violence in our communities. We can continue to provide a consistent and helpful response to the needs of victims and their families that puts their safety first. We can collectively and consistently hold batterers responsible for their actions. All this can happen in our workplaces, within our legal system, in our churches, in our schools: anywhere and everywhere we encounter abuse.
If you want to know more about how you can help, or if you need assistance for yourself or a friend, please call New Hope for Women at 1-800-522-3304.
Ellie Hutchinson, New Hope for Women
Waldo County Outreach Office