Domestic violence is a society-wide issue that affects people of every race, class, and gender. With this in mind, we all have a responsibility to help stop domestic violence, especially considering the struggles that domestic violence victims face when trying to leave their dangerous situations.
While there’s a common misconception that survivors of domestic violence can simply leave their situation, there are a number of reasons why this isn’t the case. The graphic below highlights a few of the reasons why victims “don’t just leave” their partners who are committing intimate partner violence.
Considering the substantial hurdles that victims of domestic violence face on their road to safety, we each have a responsibility to speak up if we witness or hear evidence of domestic violence. If you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, you can do the following:
- Offer help by researching shelters, finding hotline numbers, and looking for legal advocacy for the victim. People who commit domestic violence tend to be very manipulative and controlling, and may be monitoring their partner’s internet activity. Even the act of searching for help can be difficult for victims, so offer to do this work for them. Establish yourself as someone they can call or reach out to if they are in crisis.
- Be a witness. When women and other victims of domestic violence seek legal protection against abusers, their cases are strengthened when they have evidence of the abuse. Police records of the abuser, photos of abuse, written descriptions of abuse with concrete details and dates, and a witness who can attest to the abuse. All of these things will help a woman get the legal protection she needs.
- Communicate that you are not okay with domestic violence. Speak publicly against it, and ask leaders of your community to do the same. When a community or society looks the other way after a known incident of domestic violence, it sends the message to victims that they should stay silent. End the stigma by speaking out.
- Call the authorities. While calling the police can be a difficult decision for various communities, many women die at the hands of their abusers, and a history of police intervention will help the woman should she decide to seek legal protection against her abuser. If calling the police does not feel like a safe option, call a trusted friend who can be a witness.
- Share resources with your friends and families. Many victims of domestic violence are silent about the abuse they are suffering and may not know how to seek help. GeorgiaLegalAid.org, which is maintained by Atlanta Legal Aid, has up to date resources on legal interventions for domestic violence: georgialegalaid.org/issues/family-law-and-domestic-violence/domestic-violence
If you are not a victim of domestic violence but want to help, you can make a donation to your local legal services organization. If you’re in metro-Atlanta, that’s us: Atlanta Legal Aid. Every year, we secure protection for over 1,000 people who are victims of domestic violence, most of them being women and children. We do this work in part thanks to the generous donations of our neighbors and community members. To make a donation to help support this vital work, visit give.atlantalegalaid.org
To see if you or someone you know qualifies for legal assistance from Atlanta Legal Aid, visit atlantalegalaid.org/contact-2/ and call the office nearest to you.