WITNESS TO A MURDER
By Kathleen Doherty
After domestic violence victim Jessica Hampton was stabbed to death on a Red Line train last week, many have asked: why didn’t more people help?
But that inquiry must start much earlier than the Thursday, June 23, 2016 murder and must expand far beyond eyewitnesses to the attack itself. Ending tolerance for domestic violence is a responsibility that belongs to us all. To better understand how a relationship ends in death, we must ask ourselves: what messages did the perpetrator receive throughout his life that reinforced the idea that violence was an acceptable option? What messages did the survivor receive from family and friends? Were they messages of support or blame?
We must educate early and often on healthy relationships so a young person values mutual trust and respect. We must name abusive behaviors for what they are and refuse to frame them as “just jealousy” or misinterpreted gestures of romance. We must understand the impact of technology and social media in abetting a partner determined to monitor and surveil every detail of a victim’s life. We must tell our friends, employees, and students that domestic violence is not tolerated and then when it occurs, address it swiftly and with purpose. We must tell our athletes that domestic violence is not a minor offense. We must pressure our police and our courts to treat domestic violence like the crime it is and administer justice fairly and consistently.
We must commit to reaching out to survivors to offer support and services that are created in response to their needs. We must ensure that our state adequately funds human services so that there are services to meet her when she reaches out to us for help. We must understand the barriers to leaving an abusive relationship and know that a survivor is best helped when it is on her terms.
We must also recognize the need to serve perpetrators of domestic violence and share effective tools for resolving conflicts in intimate relationships, for if a victim is helped but a perpetrator ignored, we’ve simply passed the problem on. We must believe that it is possible for a perpetrator to decide to stop abusing.
Opportunities to acknowledge domestic violence and end our tolerance for it are everywhere: in our private conversations, in our corporate boardrooms, in our election booths and in our budgets, and yes, on our trains.
Commit to the conversation where you can, when you can. And know you are not alone. The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide immediate help. Whether you are a survivor, perpetrator, family member, friend, or witness, our Hotline assists with crisis intervention services and refers callers to the appropriate agency for further support.
Let’s all become someone who is doing more to help.
Call the Chicago Battered Women’s Network Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline, 877-863-6338, if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation and needs help.
Kathleen A. Doherty, LCSW, ICDVP is a Steering Committee member of Chicago Says No More and Executive Director of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network in Chicago. firstname.lastname@example.org