Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of guest articles from community experts on domestic abuse, in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This article may contain information that is emotionally difficult and/or upsetting for some readers. Readers are encouraged to care for their safety and well being in ways that make sense for them and to reach out for support if needed.
To speak to an advocate who can assist you with safety and support, please call The Women’s Community 24/7/365 at 715-842-7323 or toll free at 988-665-1234. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact your local medical provider as soon as possible.
By: Sarah Bedish | Wausau Police Department
A note from the author: For this article, I will reference victims as women, simply because available data tell us that women are far more likely to be victims of domestic violence, strangulation, and other forms of intimate partner violence. We fully understand and recognize men and people of all gender identities can be subjected to this horrific crime and abuse.
As an officer for more than 11 1/2 years, I have encountered countless victims of intimate partner violence and strangulation. In my current role as Victim Resource Officer, working with and supporting victims of these terrible crimes has been enlightening, frustrating, and rewarding. Victims of intimate partner strangulation are involved in some of the deadliest domestic violence incidents and can be some of the most difficult victims to serve. It is heart wrenching to hear a victim say:
- “If I would have just done what he told me, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad.”
- “If he kills me, it would be an accident; not on purpose.”
- “He was drunk, he’s not always like this.”
- “I didn’t lose consciousness and I don’t have any marks; I’m fine.”
Victims of intimate partner violence and strangulation want to believe those statements. There is often embarrassment and shame associated with being labeled a “victim of domestic violence.” Many feel it implies that someone is “weak,” “stupid,”or “asking for it.” It is humbling to look a strangulation victim in the eye and tell her, “I have seen others in similar situations, and because you have been strangled by your partner, you are 1000% times more likely to be killed by him.”
Victims of intimate partner violence do not choose to be a victim. They choose survival. The idea of survival varies from person to person, and from relationship to relationship. One Survivor may know that her husband gets violent when he drinks, so she workers longer hours to avoid being at home while he’s drinking. Another Survivor may know her boyfriend gets angry if she doesn’t text back, so she always has her phone nearby so she won’t miss a message. Someone may know her fiancé gets really mad if she doesn’t want to have sex, so she quietly gives in every time and lays still.
A Survivor may not call law enforcement because she knows it will only make the situation worse and that he will punish her more later. Finally, a Survivor may give the outward appearance that their relationship is healthy, that her life is in order, and that there is nothing to be worried about. If no one worries, no one will report to law enforcement and her partner will stay calm and happy; and if he is happy, he won’t hurt her.
As members of the community you may wonder: “Then what’s the point of calling the police?” “What can be done if the person doesn’t want to talk about it?”
Members of law enforcement are trained observers and with a proactive approach to interviewing victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and strangulation, we understand that it may take more than one contact before she discloses what happens behind closed doors. We understand that a victim may not trust law enforcement or anyone else, because the abuser taught them not to.
Maybe she feels the criminal justice system let her down in the past. Perhaps she doesn’t know how to explain the abuse, her fear, or why she stays in the relationship. Commonly, Survivors fear they won’t be believed. And worst of all, some victims believe they deserve what is happening to them or that there is no way out.
When we approach a victim of suspected domestic violence and strangulation, we do so with a “Victim Centered Approach.” We work on first building trust with victims of crime, because we understand that if the victim doesn’t trust us, she will not share her experience. Without trust, there is no statement and no arrest, and the cycle of abuse continues.
As law enforcement, is important to communicate to the victim that their safety and well being takes precedence. We will catch the bad guy eventually, but at the end of the day, it’s about supporting the victim.
Strangulation is not an accident. It is an intentional act done by one human who wishes to control another human. It is an intentional act to prevent someone from breathing. It is an intentional act to prevent blood flow to a person’s brain and heart. It is an intentional act to keep someone quiet.
My role as a Victim Resource Officer, and our roles as law enforcement, community members, friends, and family, is to acknowledge the dangerous nature of domestic violence and intimate partner strangulation.
We need to start listening to Survivors and to what they are trying to tell us. We need to recognize that domestic violence not an accident or a side effect of substance abuse or anger issues. We need to stop blaming the victim and start standing in their corner. Victims of domestic violence and intimate partner strangulation are some of the strongest people I have encountered in this profession, but sometimes even the strongest among us need a hand to hold.
If you would like to hear more about MCDAIT, and learn about dynamics of domestic violence as we break down common misconceptions, we invite you to attend our Domestic Violence In Our Community: Fact and Fiction. This presentation is free and open to the public and will be held in the Community Room of the Marathon County Public Library –Wausau Branch on Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 at 5:30 p.m.
This event will feature members of the Marathon County Domestic Abuse Intervention Team and is not sponsored by the Marathon County Public Library. For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/3312847698985972
Officer Sarah Bedish is the Victim Resource Officer for Wausau Police Department and is a member of the Marathon County Domestic Abuse Intervention Team, a coordinated community effort of local service providers to address victim safety, offender accountability, and community awareness. For more information on MCDAIT, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call The Women’s Community at 715-842-5663.