Detroit Arsenal's Army Community Service teamed up with Turning Point from Macomb County, Mich. to present a "Recognizing and Responding to Domestic Violence" briefing October 24, 2019.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the briefers gave tips on recognizing domestic violence and helping others to understand how it impacts survivors.
Participants also learned more effective strategies to help support victims and identify indicators of domestic violence occurrence.
Turning Point community organizer and educator, Carmen Wargel, cautions against individuals that want to immediately step in and try to get victims out of the situation. She said, "Individuals might be putting the victim in further danger of more severe abuse and violence."
"It is a lie to believe that if a person just walks away from an abusive situation that everything will be ok," Wargel said.
"Our instinct is to save them from the situation, but it doesn't lead to safety," she said, "It leads to increased risk of homicide or returning to the abuser."
The survivor must choose and plan on how they want to get out of the situation. "Self-determination leads to safety," said Wargel. According to Wargel, that doesn't mean there's not things you can do to be there for a person being abused.
When you suspect domestic violence, ask gentle questions and use "tentifiers" such as, "I'm wondering if…" Tentifiers leave an opening if someone victimized by domestic violence chooses not to discuss it," said Wargel.
In the training, turning point suggests that domestic violence observers should be careful how they talk about domestic violence, be trustworthy and non-judgmental. Share information about domestic violence, make themselves available, and make sure the abused know that no action is required".
Wargel said there are five important things someone can do if they are ever told that someone is experiencing domestic violence. 1. Tell them you believe them. 2. Tell them you are sorry this is happening to them. 3. Tell them no one deserves to be hurt. 4. Tell them they are not alone. 5. Tell them help is available and try to connect them with professional services that can help them initiate or set up a plan to deal with the abuse.
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A survivor's story
One survivor spoke at the Detroit Arsenal for the Domestic Violence Awareness Month sharing her experiences.
The survivor speaker rekindled a relationship with the father of her 14 year old son in January of 2011. At the time, there were no indicators of the type of behavior her new husband would eventually start displaying.
Wargel said this is common, most abusers are very good at hiding their true nature.
Five months into the marriage, after a Sunday afternoon disagreement, things changed.
During the argument, she realized they weren't getting anywhere with the discussion and went to get ready for a planned outing. Her husband followed her into the bathroom, and told her the discussion wasn't over, became angry, and began to physically assault her.
Over the next month there were more episodes of physical abuse and a full day where he kept her hostage in her own house.
The survivor speaker said you can't tell how you will react to abuse until it happens. "I was reluctant to leave because I feared the marriage would be over, I also feared for my life," she said.
Initially, the survivor was even afraid to tell anyone about the abuse. It happened that her sister noticed something was wrong, and the survivor opened up to her. Her sister ended up telling their mother.
"They listened to me, they didn't admonish me, and they didn't offer me opinions," the survivor said, "that was the catalyst [for me] to begin planning for the future."
The survivor credits letting others know what she was going through helping her to stay safe.
Wargel said, "Abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them trying to keep them quiet."
"I felt that letting others know took away some of his power," the survivor said, "It's important to lend a listening ear to those that have lost their voice and are in a vulnerable state."
The survivor was able to finally get out of the situation in June of 2012 by seeking help on her terms with Turning Point who helped her initiate her plan.
Now that she has successfully removed herself from her abusive situation, the survivor tells her story to help others realize they can self-determine and get help initiating their plans as well.