Domestic violence in our midst


February is known for Valentine’s Day. Retailers stock aisles and aisles with cards, chocolates, flowers, and stuffed toys – all tokens of love for that special someone.

Not all relationships though, are happy and healthy. Not all are rosy and safe.

I’ve dealt with domestic violence cases before, but as much exposure as I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate not to have experienced the loss or injury of a family member or family friend … until now.

Domestic violence hit home at the start of the new year. My middle son who has participated in almost every Walk A Mile In Her Shoes and run in every Dash at Dusk 5K (both local events aimed at raising awareness against abuse) lost a good friend. Her name is Colleen Perry. She was 27 years old. Her boyfriend is charged with her murder.

My heart breaks for Colleen, for her family, for my son, and all her friends. I hear the grief in my son’s voice. I know he is not alone in his struggle to process this senseless loss. Sadly, domestic violence has taken another life too soon.

Clinically speaking, domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.

It includes physical, sexual, and psychological violence as well as emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies.

Emotionally speaking, a young woman too young to die is simply no longer here, her life ended at the hands of another who supposedly loved her. It’s tragic.

My husband commented that, for most people, domestic violence is a two-dimensional concept. It happens to other people — not us. People believe they’re isolated from the true horrors of domestic violence. Not so. Domestic violence is here, in our community, affecting our neighbors and friends.

According to Delaware County Sheriff Russ Martin, Delaware Police Department Chief Bruce Pijanowski, and Powell Police Chief Gary Vest, domestic violence calls are the second most common calls to which law enforcement responds.

I find that frightening. Male, female, young, old, straight, gay — people should never feel the pain of violence from the people they love.

Many people don’t understand why someone would stay in a violent relationship. The reasons are many and varied — love, finances, children, religion, isolation, no place to go, fear, shame, etc. An abused partner may not want to “give up” on a relationship they value or one they’ve worked hard to maintain.

After all, not every minute of an abusive relationship is filled with fear. There are good memories of love once shared.

Emotional and psychological abuse is also complicated. It can often be just as extreme as physical violence. Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped.

Either way, the one constant in any type of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other, and leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim.

One study found (in interviews with men who had killed their wives) that either threats of separation by their partner or actual separations were most often the precipitating events that led to the murder.

The Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor told the Court that Colleen’s boyfriend was jealous because of her possible contact with other men. Unfortunately, that is not a new story. Sadly, the outcome is also not new, and although the boyfriend is charged with aggravated murder (among other serious charges), nothing will or could ever bring Colleen back.

As I pass the red and pink-hued aisles filled with Valentine’s merchandise, I can’t help but think of Colleen. She deserved so much more. She deserved to live. She deserved real love, as does everyone.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact law enforcement. Turning Point is our local organization serving domestic violence victims. They can be reached at 1-800-232-6505. Love is not abuse. You are not alone.

Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

Carol O’Brien

Guest Columnist

Carol O’Brien is Delaware County Prosecutor.

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