Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Different Sort of Independence Day

Another attempted murder, this one in Sanford, ended with the suicide of Gary Adams, 59. His estranged wife survived the attempt on her life . In spite of the injuries she sustained, one might see this event as a different sort of independence day for her. Her abuser can no longer abuse her. See the Fox 35's coverage at http://tinyurl.com/ohov8m

It was reported that Mrs. Adams had received an injunction for protection against him. However, since he had not been officially served with the paperwork, he was not legally in violation of the court order. Whether or not he knew it existed is unknown by me at this point.

Too often, people think that an injunction will keep their abuser away from them. We need to emphasize that this piece of paper is only as binding as the Respondent's respect for the law (or their fear of jail). I urge victims to have a comprehensive safety plan in place before they take this important step to protect themselves. Because once those papers are served on an abuser, they may attempt to exert more control over their victim. Seventy-five percent (75%) of all DV-related fatalities occur when a victim has left, or attempts to leave, their abuser. An injunction cannot make you safe by itself. It is merely one component of a safety plan. There are numerous other factors that must be considered before taking this step. Because every situation is unique, it is crucial that victims consult with a trained advocate to prepare themselves to end the relationship. Call 1-800-500-1119 to be connected with your local DV Shelter for assistance in preparing a safety plan.

Sometimes it takes months for a victim to prepare to leave (saving up money for an apartment, finding a job, childcare, etc.). It's for that reason that those of us on the "outside" of the relationship should never question a victim's reluctance to leave - nor should we make them feel guilty for staying. In fact, it is sometimes safer to stay until all the steps necessary to leave safely are in place. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, please do not tell them what they need to do (their abuser has likely been telling them what to do for years). Do not badmouth their abuser either. Because victims will often defend them. It's much better to offer assistance and encouragement rather than sounding judgmental about their partner, their choices, or their situation.

I suspect it will take a long time for Mrs. Adams to recover from this assault. I hope her friends and family provide the support she needs to do so. And if additional support is needed, I hope she finds it from Safehouse of Seminole or other well-trained counselors.

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