During the time it takes you to read this story, 30 women will be assaulted during acts of domestic violence. On behalf of those moms, aunts, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends and neighbors – and their children – Connatser Family Law asked Jan Langbein, CEO at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support in Dallas, what we all can do to make a difference.
When we spoke to Langbein, the shootings of a domestic violence victim and her eight friends (one who survived) in Plano, Texas were fresh in her mind.
“Our community is still reeling from the mass homicide in Plano during a football watching party. The woman did exactly what we tell victims of domestic violence to do – which is get out of an abusive relationship and surround yourself with friends. She had no idea how much danger she was in, and her friends certainly didn’t either,” Langbein says.
Ready to “get out?” Here’s information on how to leave an abusive relationship and protect your kids.
In order to make a difference, Langbein says, “We all have a responsibility to know the signs of domestic violence long before a tragedy like the one in Plano ever happens.”
Common signs, actions or traits of someone who is likely to be an abuser:
- Hyper-vigilant, such as needing to know where his partner is every moment of the day.
- Extremely jealous.
- Transfers blame for problems he contributed to.
- Aggressive with wait staff or other service professionals.
- Does or says things that make your hair stand up on end.
Common signs, actions or traits of a victim of abuse:
- Unexplained bruises.
- Days missed from work that seem excessive or unexplainable.
- Change in patterns or behavior, such as not going out as much.
- Limiting or halting communications with family and friends.
People need to be more proactive about stepping up when something seems off or intuition tells them a woman or child may be in peril. Langbein recently experienced this situation at the DFW Airport.
As she explains, “I was waiting at the gate for my flight to board, and a man was really going off on his wife and yelling at her. My gut told me she was at serious risk for getting hurt. When she got up to go to the bathroom, I followed her in and gave her my business card – I didn’t do it in front of him.”
Langbein strongly believes it’s our responsibility as human beings to say something if we see something, even when it feels uncomfortable.
“We need to step up long before a woman starts thinking about leaving her abuser or entering a shelter. This requires a change in mindset, where we acknowledge that everyone needs to play a part in ending domestic violence. We also need to do so 365 days a year, not just the 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” Langbein says.
Five ways you can help – before, during and after a victim of domestic violence seeks help
No. 1: Change your mindset and take responsibility.
According to Langbein, “Domestic violence happens everywhere. After the Plano shooting, I heard people say, ‘I can’t believe it happened in Plano.’ That’s where the problem resides. You can’t be surprised if it happens down the street because it happens everywhere. It’s not an economic thing, and it’s not an education thing. It’s about power and control.” When you see something, say something.
No. 2: Know what resources are available in your community.
Don’t feel like you have to “fix things” for that person. Even if you can’t provide financial support or a place to stay, you can point that person to resources and organizations that can help “fix things” for the victim. Here are a few to consider:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or TTY 1-800-787-3224 and website at thehotline.org.
- Teens can contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453 or visit loveisrespect.org.
- Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support website http://www.genesisshelter.org/ and phone (214) 946-HELP (4357) (for Dallas area residents).
No. 3: Let the victim know that shelters offer more than a safe haven.
“Many shelters are a one-stop shop. We’re here to walk alongside the victim during the process. In addition to shelter, we can connect women and their children with counseling and legal support and provide clothing, toiletries, emergency funds, medical assistance and just about anything these families need to start over,” Langbein explains.
Learn more about legal protections available to domestic violence victims in Texas here.
No. 4: Donate time, money and items women need.
The same items people donated to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma are all things shelters need 365 days a year: Bottled water, clothing, furniture, housewares, diapers, baby wipes, socks, underwear and feminine hygiene products.
According to Langbein, “It will take years to recover from the tragedy in Houston, it was a shock. Unfortunately, most people aren’t shocked when that other flood comes. Whether you call him Harvey, Steve, Bob or Roberto, it’s the same thing for victims of domestic violence. They lose everything when they walk away.”
Langbein also encourages people to volunteer their time to answer phones at a shelter or help support a fundraising event. “Those who are financially able can get a team together for our charity golf tournament or sponsor a table at one of our luncheons. If you don’t have financial means, clean out your closets or roll up your sleeves and volunteer,” she says.
No. 5: Encourage victims to create a safety plan right away.
Genesis provides helpful information on the safety planning page on its website. In the meantime, here are a few recommendations you can share with a friend or family member who is at risk:
- Open a checking or savings account and a post office box in your own name.
- Leave money, a set of keys, copies of important documents, extra clothes and medicines in a safe place or with someone you trust.
- Identify a safe place where you and your children can go or someone who can lend you money.
- Have a packed bag ready at a friend or relative’s house.
- Identify one or more neighbors who will call the police if a disturbance is coming from your home.
- Devise a code word or sign (such as turning on a particular light) to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors when you need them to call 911 for help.
Family violence is a crisis we can all play a role in eradicating. Challenge yourself and your friends to do something – big or small – today. Something as simple as sharing this article on social media could save a life.