Other Questions You Can Ask A Victim of Domestic Violence
Let’s start with the facts: That we never know the full story. Whether it’s a domestic violence situation close to home or it’s one being played out on the news documented by security cameras, we will only know what we saw and what we’re told. Naturally, we all have questions, and most of them come from a good place, and valid, but some of them, while well-intended, are poorly executed.
Case in point, this question I have heard a lot since Monday when TMZ Sports released video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his wife Janay Rice in an elevator at an Atlantic City hotel.
What did she do to provoke him?
Before I get into why this question is the last question anyone should ask, here is a list of five other questions I think are better suited for not only Janay Rice, but other victims of domestic violence as well. For the sake of this post, let’s just imagine the woman we’re talking to has come to us directly to tell us she and her partner got into an argument and he physically hurt her to the point where there was visible damage. Also, because unfortunately MOST domestic violence victims do not have the benefit of video footage and therefore reports must be taken at their word, let’s say this woman is someone we believe would have no reason to lie. She is reaching out to you because she would rather go to someone she loves/trusts/respects rather than the police.
Here are the questions I would ask if a woman I cared about said her partner assaulted her:
ARE YOU OKAY?
This doesn’t really need any further explanation, but this is where it should start, because she is the victim here. Her well-being is paramount.
WHERE IS HE?
You’re not looking for him so much as you’re making sure he’s nowhere near her. She may not know where he is, and that’s fine, but if she does, she has to stay away at least until cooler heads prevail. If he’s looking for her, you can stay with her until she decides to make it known where she is.
DO YOU NEED MORE HELP?
She didn’t go to the cops, but maybe she didn’t want to do so alone. In a moment’s notice, when emotions were high, she reached out to you first or you were the first one to respond. Whatever it is, you have to remind her, you’re not the only one who can keep her safe and protect her. Not to say you’re not enough, but remind her there are more options and other people can help.
HAS HE DONE THIS BEFORE?
One time is one too many, but it’s helpful to know if this sort of thing has been a regular occurrence in their relationship.
This is what I mean when I say there’s a better way to at least gain an understanding of what led to a domestic violent dispute other than asking a woman what she did to provoke the man. That question (what did you do?) starts from an accusatory place; that question implies he was in some way justified for putting his hands on her.
I believe every man and woman has their limit, so I would never go so far as to no person should ever resort to violence. Some have a quick trigger, others have their violent side buried in a place so deep, they will probably live their whole lives without ever finding it. In other words, breaking points, we all have them. But we are all responsible for controlling them, so trying to determine if the victim deserved to be physically hurt is a red herring to the real issue, which is the person who did the harm.