Many issues in domestic abuse
The Friday, July 12, editorial in the Rutland Herald stated that “it can seem dangerous to try to escape from an abusive situation.” It doesn’t just seem dangerous; statistically, this is the most dangerous time for abuse victims.
It is true that only a small percentage of abuse victims are killed by their abusers after they leave. Victims of domestic abuse are almost guaranteed to continue to be abused if they stay; however, the risk of fatal violence increases once a victim leaves. Many women stay because they are realistically evaluating the level of risk from their abusers: ongoing abuse versus very real death threats against them, or worse, their children or other family members. Abusers get desperate once their victims do leave, once they have broken free of the cycle of abuse and apology, social control and isolation. This is the most vulnerable period when a holistic approach is needed not only to protect the victim but to disempower the abuser.
Another oversight of the editorial was that it neglected the role of the number one legal drug that contributes to domestic abuse: alcohol. Alcohol is far more abused than any illegal drug in the state of Vermont and contributes to a loosening of inhibitions and judgment that lead to increased violence, as well as risk-taking behavior. A holistic approach for keeping women and children safe when they leave abusive relationships needs to include ways to track the intersection of criminal alcohol abuse by their perpetrators. For example, DUIs, disorderly conduct and other misdemeanor-level crimes committed when an abuser is above the legal limit can provide a point of intervention not only in alcohol abuse but domestic violence prevention for perpetrators. And when police respond to domestic violence calls, testing blood levels of abusers, as well as victims, can help build a stronger intervention and support program for both victim and perpetrator.