Harbor House, Inc.
Recently a woman was attacked in her own home. It wasn’t the first attack; it was the culmination of over 18 years of abuse: mental, physical, and undoubtedly sexual. During this attack, as is so often the case, her child tried to intervene and protect his mother. The result was that he was shot by the attacker (his father) in the head. His mother, panicked, did what any mother would. She grabbed the children and ran, taking her injured child to get immediate medical attention. While waiting for word on her child, staff from the Department of Children and Families came to the hospital and informed her that, despite the fact that the attacker was now in jail on no bond and no longer a threat, they were taking her children from her. Why? Because she had failed to prevent her attacker from assaulting her and therefore she was now the abuser.
The logic runs this way. If a mother remains with an abuser, she is putting her children in harms way. Rather than hold the attacker accountable, attempt to incarcerate the perpetrator or protect the mother so she can protect her children, the system seeks to hold the person least able to fix the problem accountable. Would we arrest someone in Pine Hills because they have failed to stop gang violence? Do we arrest individuals who leave their cars unlocked when someone steals their radio? No. Yet when this most basic of crime, physical assault occurs, we want to believe that we can say to the victim – make it stop. And here’s an incentive, make it stop or we will take your children away.
Failure to Protect is a term that we are working very hard to eradicate. In fact, through the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), advocates are working with DCF in Tallahassee to stop this practice all together. If, after 18 years, this mother could stop the abuse, don’t you think she would? Why do we continue to blame the victim for the brutal attacks and then sit idly by and point at her and say “well, make it stop?” Instead, this mother and her now further traumatized children, must be separated. How is the mother a harm to her children? She did the very best she could.
I have talked to literally thousands of survivors over the years. Never once did one of them tell me that they wanted the abuse to continue. On the contrary, they felt it was their fault and unbelievably, felt that they could, if they just tried hard enough, make it stop. And why shouldn’t they think that way? Apparently DCF does. And so does the State Attorney’s office. If you read the first article on this case, only a year ago this same man almost killed the mother. The charges were dropped because she would not testify. Remember the 18 years of abuse? This happens in about 80-90% of the cases. “Well, she doesn’t want to testify so what are we going to do?” is so often the response from the State.
We must, as those in the system that was created to protect victims, stop holding the victim accountable. It is imperative that we understand that someone who has been tortured for 18 years may be incapable of now standing up and testifying against their abuser or making him stop beating her. Yes, these cases are hard. Yes, they are frustrating. Yes, they sometimes end deadly.
But isn’t that why, if what we have been doing the same thing for the last 20 years and it isn’t working, we need to start trying something different?
You can read the entire story here.
And the general public wonders why abuse victims fail to access the System for help?
Additionally, it is imperative that as citizens who sometimes witness domestic assaults, either in public or when "something" is happening at a neighbor's home, become involved. Call 911. Be prepared to testify in court. The State has had some success with prosecuting offenders even when the victim refuses to testify (or even testifies on behalf of the defendant).
Domestic violence is everyone's business. More perpetrators need to be taught by our community (the criminal justice system, their friends & neighbors, business associates, etc.) that abusive behavior towards their family will not be tolerated.