June 23, 2018
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Self-doubt, when it comes to domestic abuse, shouldn’t prevent victims from getting help

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

It doesn’t matter.

That is my takeaway from this state’s most recent domestic violence tragedy, and it is my message to anyone who suspects they are a victim.

It doesn’t matter if you drink too much. It doesn’t matter if you smoke pot or take other drugs. It doesn’t matter if you get angry at times, too, and it doesn’t matter if you think that you are not a great parent. It does not matter if you can not hold down a job or if you have made plenty of mistakes as a partner or a parent.

It doesn’t matter.

You will not be judged on those things if you seek help.

You still deserve to be safe and so do your children.

Ask for help — when it’s safe, of course, and on your terms — but reach out.

I am not saying these things in any way to blame 35-year-old Heather Smith, who was shot to death along with her three children, 12-year-old Jason Montez, 7-year-old Noah Montez and 4-year-old Lily Smith by her husband 33-year-old Joel Smith.

Many things can prevent a victim from seeking help: fear, isolation, economic realities, perceptions of abuse, the abuser or the victim him- or herself.

But self-doubt and worrying about what others think should not be among the reasons victims of abuse don’t make that phone call.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a black eye or bloodied nose.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have physical bruises to show.

The scars from intimidation and control can be difficult to see.

It doesn’t matter if you think you are too smart or too stupid.

If you have the slightest thought that you or your children may be at risk, call for help.

Please, put aside fears that allowing an outsider, a family member, a friend or a neighbor into your life will result in unwanted or embarrassing scrutiny.

It doesn’t matter; your safety does.

There are experts — sympathetic, smart, understanding and knowledgeable folks — who are waiting for your call.

They will not defy or disappoint you. They will not rush you or invade your life or judge you.

They will talk to you, confidentially and anonymously, if you wish.

They are there, just on the other end of the phone.

Two days after the Saco shooting, a man sitting beside me said, “Look there is nothing you can do when someone flips like (Joel Smith) did.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter what we do?

Actually, it does matter. Women are escaping abusive relationships every single day because of what people are doing, but we don’t hear about those who are saved.

In case you need to be reminded, domestic violence agencies provided services to 13,258 people in 2013, answered 37,084 hotline calls, sheltered 757 victims and put on 2,065 education presentations.

In 2013, 585 trained advocacy volunteers donated 30,737 hours of service.

It does matter what we do to improve ways to reach out to abuse victims, to find safe options for them and their children, to hold abusers accountable, and to educate our sons and daughters so they may grow up with zero tolerance for domestic abuse.

But if you are an abuse victim, if you wonder whether you are or if you are feeling unsafe for any reason in your own home, the mistakes you may have made or still may be making do not matter.

What matters is that you call a domestic abuse hotline, knock on a neighbor’s door, pay a visit to a clergy member, your boss, your mother or your doctor.

Reach out to someone and ask for help and be one of the saved we will never hear about.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 1-866-834-4357, TRS 1-800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

Renee Ordway can be reached at reneeordway@gmail.com.

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