I have written about abuse in the headlines before, if you didn’t see it, you can find it here. Of course there seems to be no shortage of on-going stories of abuse in our news. I’m afraid it makes readers a bit numb to the situation for several reasons, but mostly because who wants to open up another she says/he says story that doesn’t really have a conclusion, see graphic pics of ugliness or carefully crafted statements by PR people? In the numbness, however, there is an additional message getting missed.
My reason for stopping by the headline topic again, is to point out a huge concern I have about accusations of abuse. Almost every story has a quote of the responding officer which states there was evidence of abuse or no evidence of abuse. Evidence almost always referring to physical marks on the victim’s body. The determination of a problem.
This is not always evidence of abuse.
If this is the only evidence of abuse, then what is being said is, until you have physical, outward marks, you are not really being abused, and we (law enforcement) aren’t going to do anything for you.
Message: If you aren’t black and blue, cut, shot or maimed in some way, don’t call 911.
I experienced this. In my sixteen year abusive relationship, I had very few visible indications of physical violence. I don’t bruise easily and my abuser’s use of physical over-powering was done in ways that didn’t leave cuts and black eyes (generally the kinds of pics seen in the news.) Even when I had bruised ribs and neck injuries, they were not detectible by a police officer, who ultimately left the scene, and me, to deal with the aftermath of calling 911 in the first place.
The Sacramento Kings player, Darren Collision, was apparently arrested and charged, because there was evidence of abuse on his wife. Story here. But, at one in the morning when officers came to their home, if there were no outward signs of abuse, would they leave? Do you take the word of the abuser who denies anything took place, as if they are going to ask to be taken to jail because they just beat up their wife?
How about the quote in this article about Johnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard? His legal team is already putting out the message that this isn’t about abuse, it’s about getting something from the rich “star” while she can. Read this story here.
I find it very disheartening that abuse is judged on outward appearance. I also, want to be careful, because I am sure most law enforcement truly want to do the right thing, however, systems are in place that make it very difficult for them to quickly identify the potential severity of abuse accusations. But we need to take abuse more seriously, even if there are no outward bruises. More comprehensive training and laws need to be in place to deal with abusive situations.
If we continue to perpetuate the message that you probably won’t be helped by the system, until you are bleeding, bruised or dead, oh yeah, once dead, the system isn’t helping you, how will we ever get abuse under control?
As a community, a society, we must take abuse as the serious problem it is.