Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Does a Victim Ever Feel Safe?

I am often asked if a victim of domestic violence ever feels safe. From my perspective the answer isn’t a simple one - just like everything else with domestic violence. The hard truth is that many survivors of domestic violence do not ever fully feel safe. They take steps to protect themselves and to free themselves from their abuser, but are constantly looking over their shoulders and always on alert.

If children are involved there can be a level of fear the entire time the parents have to have interaction regarding the children. Children can be used as a means of control and if custody orders require visits then interaction can be frequent and the level of fear more constant.

Women have fled their home states and moved across the country only to be found and the torment to start again. The feeling of safety ebbs away even more each time a phone number has to be changed or relocation is necessary. Even work can be a place of fear if the abuser knows the location and waits in the parking lot for his current or former partner to walk to her car at lunch or after work.

Women have told me that they only felt safe while their abuser was in prison or after their abuser passed away. Only then did the feeling of safety truly come to them.

Yes, some survivors of domestic violence are able to feel safe and go about their lives without the feeling of constant fear. I am happy for them and thankful for whatever part Hope House or other services might have played in helping that become a reality.

The sad fact is that the level of fear can depend on the abuser and his willingness to stop the abuse. Is he willing to stop tormenting her and let her live her life in peace? The responsibility lies with the abuser, not the victim. His actions, and the level at which he is held accountable for those actions, make all the difference.

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