Each October, we as a nation observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month—a time to remember that violence among family members and any intimate partners is a crime that depends on the victim’s silence and shame. Increasing awareness of domestic violence is the first step in addressing, fighting and preventing it.
It’s with this in mind that I’ve assigned members of my Victim Witness Assistance Program to staff an informational kiosk at Boston’s South Station throughout October. They are on hand to answer general questions about our office and, more importantly, to provide information and pamphlets specific to domestic violence in all its forms.
Every person has a right to be safe in his or her own home, and domestic violence strikes at the very heart of that right. More than almost any other crime, domestic abuse afflicts people of every age, ethnicity, gender identity and orientation. It happens in the wealthiest communities just as frequently as it does in the poorest. Nationwide statistics indicate that almost 2 million people are physically assaulted by intimate partners annually, and 42 of our state’s homicides last year occurred within the context of an abusive relationship.
Many people are reluctant to leave such a relationship, sometimes out of a belief that it can be salvaged and sometimes because there are issues of financial dependency that keep them involved long after the point when they want to leave.
As a prosecutor who has tried domestic violence cases in court, I’ve seen over and over again that these crimes of domestic violence are not born of love. They’re born of a desire to dominate, humiliate and control. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with many individuals and agencies who share the goal of helping abuse survivors leave violent relationships and build new, safe, happy lives.
Abuse survivors’ friends and family members may feel powerless to stop the violence, but they can help, too. People who know someone they believe is in an abusive relationship, can support him or her by expressing their concern, encouraging participation in activities outside the relationship, or accompanying them to report the abuse. Non-judgmental friendship is a reminder that there’s a world outside the one in which the abused person may feel trapped. It is important to remember that a friend or loved one who is in an abusive relationship will need support if they choose to leave.
Domestic violence thrives on silence. By addressing it—by talking about it and by refusing to tolerate it in our families, homes, lives and communities—we take
the step from fighting this crime to preventing it.
For anyone in an abusive relationship, there are caring people ready to show them a way out. My Domestic Violence Unit, which handles cases in Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop, can be reached at 619-4260. Each local police department in Suffolk County has detectives specifically assigned to crimes of domestic violence, and you can always call 911 in an emergency.
Finally, the number of the Domestic Violence SafeLink Hotline, which offers multi-lingual assistance 24 hours a day to victims and concerned friends and family across Massachusetts, is 1-877-785-2020.
Daniel F. Conley
Suffolk County District Attorney