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Wednesday, November 26, 2014


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Domestic violence victims don't deserve blame






Summer Ballentine is the State News opinion editor. Reach her at sballentine@statenews.com.

Relationship violence isn’t just black and blue.

Abusers aren’t always the mean men or women we imagine them to be. They can be nice, sweet, charming and loving enough to draw their partners into their destructive world.

Even after they broke up, Samuel Roberts’ girlfriend said he continued to assault her. Roberts, a student, was charged with holding his ex-girlfriend at knifepoint in his apartment against her will and taking her cell phone when she tried to call for help on Oct. 19. After years of emotional and physical abuse, walking away isn’t so simple.

“People who have experienced violence in a relationship also know the other side of that partner,” said Erica Schmittdiel, advocacy coordinator for MSU Safe Place/Capital Area Response Effort, or CARE. “They like that person and want their partner to be that person all the time.”

Help for domestic violence victims

  • MSU Safe Place: 517-355-1100, noabuse@msu.edu and safeplace.msu.edu.
  • Call 911 if you or someone you know needs immediate help or medical attention.

Domestic violence doesn’t always start with a shove or a punch. Abusers wear their victims down, pushing and pushing to see how far they can overstep their boundaries, Schmittdiel said.

After so many times of being called “worthless,” victims start believing their attacker, making it even more difficult to leave.

A harsh word turns into a smack, but even then it’s hard to walk away. After loving someone, it’s difficult to see anything but the best in them. Hoping that they mean it when they say it was the last time is less painful than admitting someone you love hurts you.

The apologies and the promises pile up; sometimes it takes years before victims finally tell police or family, Schmittdiel said.

I’m thankful I’ve never had to pick between a black eye and calling the police on someone I love.

It can be easier for bystanders to pretend the victim did something to deserve being thrown down a flight of stairs or punched in the face. The burden rests on their shoulders, not ours. We can go back to pretending that our friend still is a good person because his girlfriend pushed him so hard emotionally he snapped. But regardless of the situation and regardless of how many times a victim has gone back to the person who left them bleeding on the floor, it’s not their fault. It’s never their fault.

Facing disbelief or blame from friends and family only makes life harder for survivors. Already victimized by their partner, they’re further isolated without support from those who care about them. Schmittdiel said concentrating in class and even sleeping at night can be challenging.

What’s worse, when we as a community blame victims, we send a signal that domestic violence is excusable. Instead of criticizing the people who physically abuse their partners, we question why victims didn’t leave sooner.

That’s a flawed argument to say the least.

For those on the outside looking in, relationship violence might seem black and white. But loving someone who beats you black and blue is anything but simple. Don’t condemn survivors. If someone you know admits to being physically assaulted, take them seriously. No one should be blamed for being assaulted.


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