You don’t need to have the answers, you just have to genuinely care
Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services and the St. Joseph County Task Force on Family Violence will again sponsor the annual Candlelight Vigil. The theme this year is: The Truth Behind The Mask. The event will honor domestic violence victims in our area and takes place on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. It will be held at the gazebo on the courthouse lawn in Centreville. In case of rain, the event will move to the Centreville United Methodist Church, located two blocks east of the courthouse, on Main Street. All are invited and encouraged to attend.
While many readers of this letter may think this topic does not apply to them — is not part of their experience — please read on. This ceremony not only remembers victims, but also raises awareness and provides education about domestic and family violence and its many dangers and effects. Most of us have been fortunate to have not been exposed to violence in our family, workplace or travels. Many others are not so lucky. The crime of domestic violence occurs over the entire spectrum of citizens in our country. There is no “typical” victim; people affected by family violence look like you or anyone you may know. You cannot make an assumption about someone you see in the store or know casually from church or school that because of their lifestyle or their economic situation that they would be “likely” victims; or that they could never be a victim.
The purpose of public awareness events is to help everyone think outside the box. The idea is to make all of us think about those we see in our daily lives, and consider how their habits might vary from ours and others we know. Changes in personality in our friends of long standing should be noted, when they are suddenly not available to socialize; when mothers and dads of your children’s classmates or your co-workers seem hesitant, or unduly concerned about checking with their significant other before signing up for an event. Those folks may always be conscious of the time, and when they need to be home, or what they may be able (or allowed) to do.
When someone you know is obsessed with schedules and timeliness of leaving work or school or church, it might be time to consider if there is a problem for them. Befriending someone you don’t know well, or simply demonstrating you can be a sounding board without judgment, may allow those in violent home situations to reach out a little.
The worst experience for any human being is to have the feeling that they are alone, and that their situation is not shared by anyone else, that nobody believes them or cares about what they say, that they cannot confide in anyone, that they are not valued. The person who abuses another will claim they are the only person the victim can talk to, yet the abuser does not care what the victim says. The abuser is only concerned with compelling the victim to obey.
Help a victim gain some strength by being a listening ear. You don’t need to have the answers, you just have to genuinely care about them. You can be that light that allows a victim to see things more clearly, know that others care and perhaps seek out ways to make things better for themselves and their family; then they can take off their mask.
Linda Baker is the St. Joseph County Victim Rights Coordinator.