Help is out there for all victims

Published 12:01 am Sunday, October 7, 2012

“Nobody should be mistreated,” Elaine Payne often says.

As the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force Director, Payne sees daily what havoc an abuser can wreak on a partner. While October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Payne said every month is an opportunity to remind people about the violence and abuse that happens all year long.


More ways than one

While most people think of domestic abuse as physical, experts will tell you emotional and mental abuse is domestic violence also.

“The abuser is good at keying in on emotions,” domestic violence advocate Kevin Samples said. They’ll say, ‘you made me so angry’ instead of saying ‘I got angry and I did something I should not have done.’”

Payne said many victims are so browbeaten by verbal abuse they begin to feel as though they are worthless.

“They have no self worth,” Payne said.

The pattern of violence, both physical and mental, often becomes an entrenched way of life, generation after generation.

“A lot of times kids see Mom and Dad doing it and think this is the way its supposed to be,” Payne said.

It is this pattern domestic violence experts want to change.


There is help

Payne said there is hope and help for those who reach out for it. The task force has a shelter that provides immediate assistance — and safety in a crisis situation.

“We assess each client and we refer them to other agencies that help them,” Payne said.

If the victim needs a job, education, housing, legal protection from the abuser, medical care or transportation, the task force has contacts with a network of social service agencies that provide assistance.

“We can help them become self-sufficient,” Lawrence County Domestic Violence Shelter Director Angela Bacon said. “We can help them get housing. We don’t just leave them hanging.”


Ending the violence

Payne and her colleagues are convinced one of the keys to ending abuse is education — and the sooner the better.

Samples often speaks to high school students about domestic abuse, which does occur among teenagers. Dates often turn violent and one partner is often a master manipulator who exacts a heavy emotional as well as physical toll on the other person.

“Teens are emotionally immature and if they haven’t had the best role models…” Samples said. “I take these opportunities to talk about certain behaviors that are unacceptable.”

Another key is community support and Payne wants to see that support come from every aspect of society. Payne would like to see every minister in Lawrence County give a sermon on domestic violence during October.

She is adamant that a community united against domestic violence can help end the abuse.

Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church will donate the proceeds from its fish fry Saturday to the domestic violence shelter.


Final thoughts

Payne recalls a local professional women caught in an abusive relationship. But the victim didn’t talk about it because she was afraid the people she worked with would find out.

Though she eventually got out of the relationship, fear and shame kept this victim there longer than she needed to be. It is this shame and fear that the domestic violence task force is determined to combat, one victim at a time.

“We remind them they are not alone and that there are other people going through this,” Samples said. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s shame that keeps us in the dark.”