Walk away, don’t look back: Helping others out of an abusive relationship

If he’s constantly yelling, leave. If he pushes you, leave. If he tells you what you can and can’t wear every time you walk out the door, leave.

Since high school, these are just a few things my mother has always told me to keep in mind when I become romantically involved with a guy. Back then, those words didn’t mean much. I didn’t understand the severity of an abusive relationship. I thought all relationships have their own issues and people deal with them differently. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more observant.

People always say to write about what you know. I am neither in a relationship nor a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. But I do not believe I have to be to potentially help someone who has never seen the unhealthy warning signs in a relationship.

I am 100 percent aware that domestic violence comes in all forms. Man hitting man, woman hitting woman and woman hitting man – none of which are a lesser offense. No matter what angle you look at it, it is a crime.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24.3 percent of women and 13.8 percent of men 18 and older have been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Almost every incident I’ve witnessed has been a man on woman attack, but my words apply to every person needing a gateway out of an abusive relationship and those who are watching their loved ones weakening from a distance.

Organizations at UB and in the Buffalo community have done an excellent job raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. The Tribute Garden, Walk with Me, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and The Vagina Monologues are just a few that have given me hope in our generation.

I’ve realized that even though these larger groups have taken steps forward to put an end to domestic violence and sexual assault, there are still individuals trailing behind.

According to Chief of Police Gerald Schoenle, there was a domestic violence incident Sunday afternoon between a couple and both parties were referred to Judicial Affairs. UPD hasn’t released any other information.

This incident took to social media and I overheard someone pose an interesting question: If a guy can hit his girlfriend in public, what would he do in private?

As cliché as it sounds, love is in fact blind and numbing. It makes people think a controlling person is a caring person. They are too attached to the hidden comfort of their relationship and don’t acknowledge the pain they’re in. They replay the scenario and try to figure out what they did to make him or her angry.

And after the endless hours self-blame, the victim often goes back to believing he or she can make changes so history doesn’t repeat itself.

In no way, shape or form am I being judgmental. I’ve witnessed people close to me slowly become victims of domestic violence and I found myself in a difficult position. I know there are other bystanders unsure of how to get their friends or family members to walk away.

I can tell you one thing: Convincing someone to walk away isn’t the hard part. Staying away and never going back may seem like the impossible.

Each and every one of us has to be willing to hit the ones we care about with the harsh truth before they get hit with something harder.

You will dread saying it and will be afraid of the strain it could put on your relationship with the person. But how would feel if you waited too long to say something and found it was too late?

It’s not worth the hesitation.

If you make the first step to intervene, do not blame yourself if the person doesn’t follow right behind you. It is ultimately the victim’s responsibility to want what’s best for him or herself.

Be the backbone and the support system. Grip on to them when they fall and try your hardest to keep their head facing forward when they try to look back.

Gabriela Julia is the senior features editor and can be reached at gabriela.julia@ubspectrum.com