You can’t ignore the senseless heartbreak the Kirkersville tragedy brought upon that community. Even if you don’t live there, you can see the pain in the faces and voices of the people.
Collectively we mourn the tragic loss of a police chief who will not experience the birth of his seventh child; for a nurse’s aide who was celebrated for her kindness and generosity; and for the nurse whose smile could light up a room but whose troubled relationship with the killer ended in the tragedy she too often predicted in police reports.
The investigations into how this was allowed to happen have begun. And while those are absolutely appropriate and changes must be made to better protect victims from violence, we have a simpler plea.
If you see something say something. Or looked at in the reverse, secrets keep us sick.
Domestic violence is an ugly crime, and it is on all of us to be aware of its signs and to be unafraid to speak up. Victims should be encouraged to go to the police, press charges and seek shelter and protection, but they can’t be expected to do this alone.
How many of us have ever faced a situation where we literally fear for our life? This is the situation victims of domestic violence face: going to police could trigger a murderous rage but not going to police will only allow the abuse to continue and get worse.
So it is understandable that with the trauma the victims suffer, they may plea for leniency for their attacker out of fear for their lives or that of a loved one. That is why it is on us to be their champions.
Police, judges and other in law enforcement must know why a victim may be trying to dismiss charges against their attackers and work to build a case regardless. Lawmakers must close the loophole that let a man convicted of three domestic violence charges in one day face only misdemeanors.
And most importantly, we as everyday residents must speak up. Report domestic abuse to police, convince a victim to seek help and critically be with them. Go to the police department with them, take them to a shelter.
In Fairfield County, The Lighthouse offers free, confidential housing and other resources to victims. To get help, call 740-687-4423.
Professionals encourage people who may feel squeamish to simply say, “I’m worried about your safety,” as a way to begin the dialogue.
And equally as important, keep the lines of communication open even if the victim acts in ways you may not approve. People suffering in abusive relationships need us to not give up hope but to keep engaged and offer support.
You don’t need to be an expert to help, but you do need to care.