EDITORIAL: Abuse victims need help from friends, relatives

2013-03-11T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Abuse victims need help from friends, relatives nwitimes.com
March 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law Thursday, it was hailed as a victory for victims of domestic abuse. It does help, but it isn't the only thing victims need.

The law requires police to respond to crisis calls and determines that victims of sexual violence need not be forced to pay the cost of rape exams or of securing a protection order.

Those protection orders make a difference.

TJ Myricks, 34, told The Times she let a protection order be lifted in 2008, worried that her abusive boyfriend would harm her if she told the judge she wanted it renewed. She had no advocate by her side to support her at the time, and her abuser was beside her.

Not long afterward, her boyfriend hurt her again, striking her with a hammer. A police officer told her she was lucky, that a high percentage of women who rescind protection orders end up dead.

Since 2010, at least 22 people have died because of domestic violence in Northwest Indiana.

The statistics and Myricks' case show the importance of having an advocate ready to help victims.

Just getting victims to seek the help they need can be a major challenge. They might be afraid of revenge if they seek help, or they might be afraid of what will happen if they suddenly lose the income their abuser provides.

"We get victims who bond out a husband or boyfriend," said Peter Villarreal, first assistant deputy prosecuting attorney in Lake County.

Myricks even married her abusive boyfriend after he attacked her.

That's why supportive friends and relatives are so important.

Sometimes, the children of abusers or victims grow up as if this were normal.

At St. Jude House, just one of the local agencies helping abused women, the solution goes beyond helping women in crises. Executive Director Mary Govert said victims' children are taught about healthy relationship to try to end the cycle of violence. That is an important step in the process.

Renewing the Violence Against Women Act, issuing protective orders and other legal maneuvers to address domestic violence are a help. However, it's still up to friends and relatives of victims to help them seek the the help they need to get away from their abusers.

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