No One-Size-Fits-All Solutions for Domestic Violence
Dear Annie: We appreciate your care for community members in the Spokane, Washington, area and the time that you spend responding to questions from community members who contact you. We share your commitment to supporting others and being a resource for individuals in need.
After reading the advice related to domestic violence that you provided in a recent column, we wanted to let your readers know about our organization and our suggestions for dealing with domestic violence.
It is common for those outside of a relationship impacted by domestic violence to discuss potential solutions in simple terms. When giving advice related to domestic violence, many people tell survivors that they need to leave, set and maintain firm boundaries and get mental health support. Responding to domestic violence in this way can be damaging, and we were concerned when we read advice like this in your response to "Trapped."
The reality is that relationships impacted by domestic violence are incredibly complex and that there is no one-size-fits-all way to move forward after experiencing domestic violence. Leaving a relationship impacted by domestic violence does not guarantee safety; in fact, it can increase risk. Safety planning needs to be individualized and completed with survivors' input because survivors are experts in their own experience and needs. When we approach safety planning by telling survivors what to do instead of identifying options with them, we are likely to not account for important safety considerations such as unique individual circumstances and personal traits or habits of the abuser.
Furthermore, it is incredibly important that survivors of domestic violence are empowered to make their own choices and have them respected by others. Domestic violence is marked by an imbalance of power and control in a relationship, where an abuser gains, leverages and maintains power and control over a victim or survivor. Because power and control have been taken away from a victim or survivor of intimate partner violence, it is extremely important that they are able to connect with their own sense of autonomy by making choices about what to do next.
We were happy to see that you mentioned the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They are a fantastic resource for people anywhere in the U.S. Please also consider referring to our confidential domestic violence helpline, available 24/7 by calling 509-326-2255, texting 509-220-3725 or emailing email@example.com. We are Spokane County's largest state-recognized program for victims and survivors.
Believing survivors and providing nonjudgmental support is so important, and we know that it can be challenging. -- Supporting Victims
Dear Supporting Victims: Thank you for your thoughtful letter and suggestions based on real-world experience. You really understand the imbalance of power between abuser and victim, and you are providing a wonderful service for victims of abuse. You are quite right about one-size-fits-all not being a good solution, which is why I would encourage anyone who is being abused to contact your organization or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.