This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, a seven-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
Is it just me, or are we getting less and less tolerant of domestic violence? What was once labeled a “private family matter” now gets the appropriate label of “domestic violence” and a big headline – especially if the accused abuser is an official entrusted with public safety.
San Francisco’s new sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, has been charged with domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness after allegedly roughing-up his wife during a New Year’s Eve argument. Mirkarimi called the episode a “private family matter,” and we went berserk.
It wasn’t just domestic violence advocates who called foul, even though Mirkarimi’s wife said she had no complaint against her husband (not an unusual victim response). San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon declared: “Whether this was the elected sheriff or any other San Francisco resident, this type of behavior is inexcusable, criminal and will be prosecuted.” Regardless of whether the victim supports a prosecution, he said, it is the state’s and the DA’s obligation to ensure the safety of the victim. Right on!
Interestingly, it was a neighbor who had the wherewithal to call the police when Mirkarimi’s wife sought help next door that night. That brave, astute neighbor was not meddling. She recognized what she believed to be spousal abuse, a woman and child in danger, and she took action. What would you have done in the same situation? What if the abuse wasn’t as blatant as a fresh bruise and a cry for help?
Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence recognizes most of us are ill-equipped to know what to do if we have a neighbor, friend, relative or colleague who is being abused. We may have witnessed the violence, heard it, seen the physical signs of it, or merely suspected for various reasons. Most of us would know to call 911 if we witness violence and someone is in immediate danger. But, what if we just suspected, or someone took us into her confidence and sought our help?
Next Door gives this plain-spoken advice, which is available on a handy pocket card, which you can request in quantity if you’re willing to spread the word:
● Listen without judging. Don’t rush into providing solutions.
● Make sure she knows she is not alone.
● Let her know you support and care about her and that the violence is not her fault.
● Tell her help is available. It is free and confidential.
● Tell her you are worried about her safety and the safety of her children.
● Tell her you are there for her and that she deserves better than this.
● Refer her to Next Door: 408-279-2962.
We all have responsibility for breaking the silence and taking action. Ever wonder where Next Door got its name 40 years ago? It was a brave woman in San Jose who opened her door, providing shelter and comfort when intimate partner abuse was considered a private family matter. Thank goodness domestic violence has moved out of the shadows. Thank goodness we as a society and as individuals will no longer tolerate it.