From the Director
Endurance. Dedication. Strength. Courage. Persistence. Each of these words could be used to describe many times in our lives when we needed to push a little harder; to do things that make us uncomfortable; to keep going through adverse times. During this past week, one of our own made these words part of her mantra to run 341.4 miles from Sault Sainte Marie to Dearborn. Her mission was to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Dani Filipek did just that. What she also did was bring to the forefront what each survivor is capable of when the goal on the other side is survival.
Each survivor’s journey is as different as their experiences are from each other. We know from the Power and Control Wheel that intimate partner violence can take many forms. It can look like intimidation by looks, actions, or gestures, such as destroying property, abusing pets, or displaying weapons. Emotional abuse could appear as put downs, name-calling, humiliation, or feelings of guilt. Sometimes victims are isolated from their families and friends. The abuser controls who they talk to and what they say, what they read, attending functions, and using jealousy to justify actions.
When an abuser uses minimization, denying or blaming, this can put the victim in a position of wonder whether or not it even occurred. This is also sometimes called “gaslighting.” The abuser will make light of the abuse or deny that it even happened or they will shift the responsibility for abusive behavior. They will say the victim caused the behavior from the abuser.
When children are in the family, the abuse can take the structure of pitting the kids against the victim, using the children to relay messages to the victim, or threatening to have the children taken away from them. While the abuser may think that they are only affecting the victim, we know that the children who grow up in this type of environment are also victims of abuse. Secondary trauma can and should be treated in those who witness the victimization on a regular basis.
Economic abuse is sometimes the last thing victims think of as abuse but it is definitely abuse. If the abuser controls the finances, how the money is spent, obtaining credit in the victim’s name and not paying on it to ruin her credit, or not allowing the victim to work outside the home can be a mitigating factor as to why some victims feel like they can’t leave. If they are trying to flee with children, the victims may be worried about how they can care for their children and worry about them being removed from her care.
Threats and coercion are tools of the abuser that keeps the victim feeling helpless that they can get out of their situation. The abuser may make threats of harm to the victim or to themselves. They may threaten to call Child Protective Services. They threaten the victim to drop the charges against them or to get a Personal Protection Order lifted. They may threaten suicide if the victim leaves them.
All of these things are red flags and insights into an abusive relationship. If you hear about a victim in court asking to get the PPO lifted so she can have contact with her abuser, it may not be about wanting the contact. It may be because he is threatening harm to her or someone/something she loves. It takes courage, strength, endurance, persistence, and dedication to themselves to live in an abusive relationship and to leave an abusive relationship. It’s not just about physical violence. It doesn’t start overnight. For those doing this front line work, thank you for the patience that you exhibit while working with the survivors. For those who support our work, thanks will never be enough. We are humbled by your support.
– Executive Director, Betsy Huggett