Washington recently suffered a horrible loss. A family is enduring indescribable suffering. Their aunt, grandmother, sister, mother and daughter is gone. Domestic violence has left yet another empty place at the table.
Let’s be clear – the “system” didn’t kill Tierne Ewing. Her abuser did.
Furthermore, Tierne Ewing is not to blame for her own death. No victim of domestic violence is to blame for the abuse perpetrated upon them, and no abusive behavior should be excused as a “loss of control.” Batterers do whatever it takes to get and maintain control over their victims. Domestic violence is all about the choices batterers make to keep power and control over their victims. Blame always lies with the abuser, not with the victim.
We have to recognize that victims have a variety of reasons for staying with an abuser, fear being the overarching one. Many victims believe that leaving is not going to make their lives, or their children’s lives, any safer. Staying in or returning to an abusive relationship is a complex decision that may be a very rational survival or protective mechanism. Domestic violence victims are not always passive; they are employing survival techniques every day to protect themselves and their children – everything short of leaving. Walking away may not be as easy as we want to believe.
Let something good come from this horrendous tragedy. Speak out against domestic violence. Challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them. Don’t accept abusers’ excuses for why they abuse. Let survivors know that the abuse is not their fault. Hold abusers accountable for their actions. Treat domestic violence like the crime it is.
There is help for victims of domestic violence. Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 24-hour hotline is 800-791-4000. Services are available in Washington, Greene, and Fayette Counties. To schedule trainings and prevention/education programs, call 724-223-5477.
Robinson-Ritter is the executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania.