I have never been the victim of domestic violence, nor have I ever been the instigator of it. But it’s not hard for me to imagine it. I remember as a young lawyer representing a small, slight father who was struggling to retain custody of his children as the state attempted to terminate his parental rights. His wife, a large and intimidating woman, had abused the children and physically bullied her husband into permitting it. I remember being shocked at the time. I am shocked no more.
Domestic violence has been defined as “a pattern of abusive behaviors used by a person to gain power and control over another person, typically within the context of an intimate relationship.” Often, domestic violence is physical but the common pattern is control, and that can manifest in a variety of ways, including verbal and financial abuse.
Most victims are women between the ages of 18 and 34. Nationally, one in four women will suffer domestic violence. But men are not immune, as was the case with my client. One in nine men will experience domestic violence in one way or another.
I regret to report domestic violence has been on the rise during the pandemic. That’s not hard to imagine, is it? Being cooped up in the house more than normal. With kids. And money problems. Kim Garrett, CEO and founder of the local nonprofit Palomar, was quoted in The Oklahoman, “If you’re already in a violent home where there’s issues of power and control, this (the pandemic) can escalate it. People feel like they’re losing their jobs. They feel like their own lives are out of control.”
Control is the issue, and domestic violence is the method of control. During the last four months, the Oklahoma City Police Department reported a 13 percent increase in domestic violence calls compared to the same time a year ago. And those are the just the people who called. Most victims of domestic violence are afraid to call or are prevented from calling. “Shelter at home” has not brought shelter to these victims. Just the opposite. It has deepened the danger.
So what are we to do? First, if you are a victim, find help. The nonprofit Palomar is a good place to start. Call 405-552-1010 or go to https://palomarokc.org/
Second, if you know someone who is a victim, help and encourage them, rather than judge them. Learn the warning signs of abuse and learn about available resources. You might, literally, be the victim’s only lifeline.
Contrary to what Old Testament Cain said, we are our brother‘s and sister’s keeper. If you see something, say something. Don’t let your silence become a co-conspirator to domestic violence.
Jim Priest is CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma and can be reached at [email protected].