Control drives abusers, fear keeps victims from leaving
The reason is quite simple but the solution is not.
In most cases, those who physically, verbally or emotionally assault their intimate partners want control over them, according to Ella Herrarte.
Herrarte is a volunteer coordinator and bilingual client advocate at the Parent-Child Center in Lexington that serves Dawson and Gosper counties and the surrounding area.
Fear is what keeps those on the receiving end of domestic violence from seeking help or leaving the situation.
“They are afraid of the threats, that they won’t be able to make it financially and they don’t feel like they have support from anyone,” Herrarte said.
Another big fear is when children are involved.
Abusers may threaten to harm or kill the children if the victim seeks help, she said. Victims also often refrain from telling agencies that could assist for fear that their children will be placed in foster homes.
“They think they will be blamed for not protecting their children from the abuse,” Herrarte said.
Women and men in abusive situations also keep that part of their lives from others.
“Victims keep it a secret because they think people will judge them or, if they tell anyone, the abuse will be worse,” she said.
Sometimes, abusers threaten to kill whom they want to control so victims will be too frightened to leave.
In fact in those situations, Herrarte said there’s a 75% chance that victims will be killed or badly injured.
“Abusers become angry because they feel like they are losing control over that person,” she said.
Herrarte said many victims don’t realize that a push or shove by the abuser is physical domestic violence.
“And verbal abuse is just as damaging,” she said. “Bruises and pain go away if you’re hit but if you’re constantly demeaned, it’s worse.”
Often abusers see wives or girlfriends as property and feel they are entitled to sex at any time. Herrarte said they don’t accept no as an answer and try to manipulate.
Regardless of where victims are in the abuse cycle, Herrarte said it’s important to have a safety plan.
“Neighbors can help,” she said. “Tell a trusted neighbor what’s going on. If they hear noises coming from your house, ask them to call the police.”
Signals, like turning lights off and on, can also draw a neighbor’s attention.
If a victim sees that the abuser is upset, Herrarte warned against being in a closed room.
“Have an exit door and try not to be in a place like the kitchen where knives are,” she said. “If you if feel like your life is in danger, call the police or the crisis line if you need to come to a shelter.”
Another helpful tip in an abusive situation is to place important documents in a safe place that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice, Herrarte said.
“Passports, birth certificates, bank information, custody papers, those sorts of documents,” she said.
Because abusers often take phones away from their victims in their attempt to control, Herrarte said the Parent-Child Center has cell phones donated for people who need them.
“We make sure 911 can be called easily,” she said.
Most important is that victims of domestic violence know that the abuse is not their fault.
“You don’t deserve to be abused and there’s help,” Herrarte said, noting that an anonymous shelter in Lexington houses victims and children.
In 2012, Herrarte said 361 people sought services from the Parent-Child Center and 317 in 2013.
Herrarte said the center helps victims of all kinds of abuse and violence.
Center employees are available to talk to groups throughout Dawson and Gosper counties about such things as domestic violence, teen-dating violence, sexual assault and more.
To contact the center, call 308-324-2336.
A crisis line or línea de crisis for anyone to call 24 hours a day is available in English at 1-800-215-3040 or Español at 1-866-351-9594.