When I hear about a domestic violence homicide, I immediately do two things. First, I say a quick prayer for the victim and her/his survivors. Second, I check to see if the victim was working with the staff of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center where I am the executive director.
If the victim was someone with whom our staff worked, perhaps on a protection order, or a shelter stay, or maybe a hotline call, then we begin the process of compassionate review. The staff member or volunteer who has been working with a victim of homicide needs support and care as she/he asks themselves, “What could I, should I have done differently?” While we know that the perpetrator of a domestic violence homicide is the only one responsible, still the questions come. While it is clear that the paid and volunteer staff at the CCWRC do lifesaving work every day, still the grief of one more life lost to domestic violence must be acknowledged and addressed. It is the most difficult part of the work we do.
The questions and the grief, however, are even more present in the lives of the family and friends who survive. “How could I have helped? What could I have done?” or even more poignantly, “Why didn’t I know?” While each situation of domestic violence has its own unique characteristics, the sad reality is that for most victims, the isolation they experience is the same. Perhaps it is fear of telling, perhaps a lack of confidence in the systems designed to protect them, perhaps it is embarrassment — whatever the reasons, many victims are unable to reach out, even to family and friends, for help. So the responsibility is on us, on the community, to change that.
Following the murder of Traci Raymond Miscavish, a group of her family and friends in the Philipsburg area knew that they wanted to do something to change the isolation so many victims experience and bring awareness and understanding to the community. So they formed Break the Silence, a group dedicated to raising awareness of domestic violence, remembering victims and raising money for services and support. The family and friends of Traci understand that it is the community’s responsibility to talk about domestic violence, to talk about the services available, to encourage those who may be experiencing violence to reach out for help — and to support them when they do. This year’s Break the Silence event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Chester Hill Borough Building.
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The more we talk about domestic violence, the less isolation victims will experience. The more we talk about domestic violence, the more information victims will have about the resources available. The more we talk about domestic violence, the more family and friends will understand the signs. The more we talk about domestic violence, the less we will need to ask ourselves, “What could I have done?”
Talking about domestic violence is uncomfortable. It is often painful and sometimes scary. But if we want to end domestic violence, it is a necessity. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a perfect opportunity to start the conversation. Resources are available at the CCWRC website, ccwrc.org, or on our Facebook page at Centre County Women’s Resource Center. It is time to talk.