Victims of domestic violence must not underestimate danger


POSTED: Friday, March 20, 2009

Domestic violence prevention experts stress how important it is for victims of domestic violence to seek help from a service provider and develop a safety plan.

“;It is not uncommon for restraining orders to be violated,”; said Carol Lee, executive director of Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit coordinating agency for domestic service providers in the state.

It shows the persistence of the perpetrators and the belief that they are entitled to have contact with the victims. When perpetrators repeatedly violate a restraining order, it is a “;red flag that things could get worse,”; she said.

“;If he is defying the law, then perhaps he would be willing to violate other laws,”; she said.

She suggested victims of domestic violence seek help from service providers or at a battered-women's shelter. Service providers can do an assessment to determine the danger the perpetrator might pose and create a safety plan for the victim.

She said domestic violence cases in Hawaii can be more challenging for victims because there are not many places for the victim to hide. In some cases the victim might have to consider moving to the mainland or another country.

“;As unfair as it is, safety comes first,”; she said.

Experts say the largest mistake is underestimating how much danger the victim faces.

Lee said everyone from family members to neighbors, co-workers and employers can do more by recognizing the danger victims are confronted with and holding the batterer accountable.

Hawaii has thousands of requests a year for help with domestic violence, Lee said. Reports of domestic violence have increased as awareness of domestic violence has grown.

But experts cannot tell whether that means domestic violence has been increasing.

“;It's such a well-kept secret,”; said Lee. “;All we can judge by is the number of requests for help.”;

She said financial stress can make domestic violence problems worse. Many cases stem from a victim trying to end the relationship.

Nanci Kriedman, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center, suggested victims be as explicit as possible about what type of threat is made.

“;I think one of the challenges is many people make different kinds of threats,”; Kriedman said. “;It's hard to ascertain which of those threats are going to turn into real acts of violence.”;

She encouraged victims of a firearm threat to get a restraining order because it requires the offender to turn over firearm licenses and permits.

“;I would encourage us to take every threat seriously,”; she said. “;That comes down to resource limitations and training.”;