VIEWPOINT: Domestic violence affects everyone

by Pat Bell, Director of Development, House of Ruth

A tragedy occurred at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino. A teacher was shot and killed by her estranged husband. Two children—one who later died—were also shot in the crossfire before the estranged husband killed himself. This all took place in a classroom filled with 15 children.

I’m compelled to write about this incident, because the tragic nature of the events raise questions about why this had to happen. What could have prevented this? I don’t have any connection to the teacher that was killed, and I don’t know the details of what was going on in their marriage. But here’s what I do know—she was a mother, grandmother, teacher and role model for special needs kids. She was also someone that left a relationship that could have been abusive.

One in four women are abused by their intimate partner, in this case her husband. She wasn’t married very long, and left the relationship soon thereafter. It takes a lot of courage to leave. Why? The most volatile time in an abusive relationship is the first 12 months after a person leaves the batterer. The level of fear instilled in victims causes them to stay because of the threat of deadly consequences. The most common question I hear about people in abusive relationships is “why doesn’t she just leave?” Getting safe and staying safe are the primary goals for someone that has left an abusive partner. No one can predict when an abusive relationship becomes lethal. This situation became what every person in a domestic violence case fears the most.

Domestic violence is not just a private “family problem.” It’s a problem we all must face. You might know a co-worker, friend, neighbor or relative who is showing signs of abuse. The most important thing you can do is speak up and help them. Don’t look the other way. Let them know that you believe them and that they are not alone. Get them connected with a local domestic violence agency, like House of Ruth, so they can receive the support they need and most importantly get safe.

The statistics are alarming and they certainly cannot be ignored. Seventy-two percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94 percent of the victims of these murder suicides are female. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent (cited by the NCADV, National Coalition of Domestic Violence).

In this instance, everyone was impacted. The children that witnessed the horrific event, the school personnel that knew the teacher and the students closely, the first responders that came upon the tragic scene, the family members of the victims whose lives have been forever changed, and parents of the children in the school that are now incredibly worried about the long-lasting impacts of what their children have experienced. No, it’s not just a “family problem.” Domestic violence impacts everyone. It’s up to all of us to do something about it.

House of Ruth is dedicated to the safety and well-being of those victimized by domestic violence. Serving San Bernardino and Los Angeles County communities for the past 40 years, House of Ruth provides crisis intervention, shelter and a comprehensive list of domestic violence services to anyone that is being abused by their intimate partner, and their children.

If you or someone you know is being abused and needs help, call our 24-hour hotline at (877) 988-5559.


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