3 Ways to Help Victims of Domestic Violence Not Hurt Them | Judge Jails Domestic Violence Victim | Lake Mary DV Counselor
On July 30th Seminole County Judge, Jerri Collins, berated a domestic violence victim for failing to appear at her alleged abuser’s trial and then sentenced the sobbing woman to 3 days in jail for contempt of court. On courtroom video, the woman whose identity is concealed by law, is seen sobbing uncontrollable as she hears her sentence, pleading with Judge Collins to understand her mental struggle with anxiety and depression and how she would have no one to care for her one year old son if in jail. Judge Collins is seen on video saying, “You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety.”

Many have become outraged at Judge’s Collins lack of compassion since first she is a female herself and second her lack of understanding of the complexity of the pressures and struggles of domestic violence victims. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. However, only 25% of these crimes get reported. Jeanne Gold, chief executive officer of the domestic-violence-prevention group SafeHouse, was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel last week saying said she was appalled by the treatment of the victim who appeared to be too scared to testify. She said the victim should not have been the target of the judge’s frustration over wasted court resources, and that the incident shows a lack of understanding in the justice system about power dynamics inherent in domestic-violence cases, including the fear a victim experiences when leaving a partner.

When domestic violence is committed against another person it is important to get justice for the victim involved. However, the path to justice is not always straight. Victims often recant their testimony or refuse to press charges for a variety of reasons that include:
1. Fear of retribution from the abuser
2. Anxiety over loosing financial or emotional security they have with the abuser despite the relationship being dysfunctional.
3. Lack of resources: family, education, job, place to live.
4. Rationalization of the abuse: “I can change him, it was my fault.”
5. Believing the abuser’s lies: “I can change, I love you, and no one understands our love.”

There are many victim advocate programs both state and national that provide help and resources to domestic violence victims. However, when you are the victim of domestic violence you are often unaware of the resources available to you as you feel alone and helpless. Instead of blaming the victim for not helping to bring an accuser to justice, here are 3 Helpful Tips:

3 Ways to Help Domestic Violence Victims Instead of Hurting Them:
1. Listen to their Story. Listen without judgment. Refrain from telling them what to do but instead ask questions to help them clarify their feelings and their understanding of their own human rights. If someone you know does not want to talk about their abuse and you strongly suspect it is occurring, offer gentle coaxing telling them you will be there for them when they are ready to talk.
2. Encourage & Empower. Victims often think that their story will not be believed as they may have been told by their abuser that no one will believe them. Say things like, “I believe you, you don’t deserve this, this is not your fault, and you can get out.”
3. Help Them Find Resources. If in an immediate danger call 911 for them. If not offer to help drive them to a domestic violence shelter, safe house or therapist’s office to talk about their situation. Let them know there is no pressure to make any decisions but that they should find out what their options might be.

Domestic Violence is traumatic enough for the victim when it occurs. As a society whether it may be a friend, co-worker or someone in a courtroom of law we all need to help with a heart of compassion first instead of passing judgment on that person. Besides the personal support you can offer a victim, early intervention and legal victim support after domestic violence probable cause is established is needed so they can understand that they have a right to be safe and stand up for themselves in court so that the cycle of violence can be broken.

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Author: Lyris Steuber, MA, LMFT is a Lake Mary Marriage Therapist & Couples and Individual Counselor with Total Life Counseling Center. Total Life Counseling Center specializes in marriage and families and our experts can be reached at (407) 248-0030.