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SAFEHOME provides outreach for victims of domestic abuse

On behalf of SAFEHOME I want to thank the Flo Harris Foundation for giving SAFEHOME a grant for the sixth consecutive year to provide outreach on domestic abuse in our Jewish Community. Healthy relationships equate to shalom bayit (peace in the home); and believe it or not, people benefit from learning what constitutes a healthy relationship.


In May when you watched or read any format of local news, every day you heard or read about the Chief’s fifth round draft pick. You might also know that this team’s upper management leaders pride themselves on asking upstanding, quality individuals with character to join their organization. However, their choice in the fifth round caused quite a bit of controversy due to the man’s recent charge of domestic violence in 2014 and subsequent alternative sentence order in 2015:  probation, anger management class and batterer’s intervention. Late in the month the player spoke publicly about it, apologizing, admitting he let his “emotions” get the best of him and promising not do it again. Those of us who work in the field of domestic abuse could write a treatise on this young man’s actions and words. I am not a clinician, yet I want to share a few thoughts about domestic abuse as we understand it.  

Everyone easily sees bruises, broken arms and legs, black eyes ... the physical signs of abuse. But the other type of abuse victims experience involves invisible abuse: emotional, psychological, medical, financial. None of these you see, but they are effective and traumatic methods to exert power and control over his/her significant other. Most people think domestic abuse is just physical, but it’s not. Each time I interview a person to volunteer at SAFEHOME one consistent question I ask is whether s/he experienced abuse or does s/he know someone who’s experienced abuse either through marriage or dating. I need to know a person who volunteers here is in a healthy place emotionally. Frequently I hear:

“He never hit me, just pushed me once.”

“He made me account for every cent I spent.”

“He flew off the handle at nothing and I never knew when it would happen.”

“He only called me names or yelled at me in front of our friends.”

“I had to ask if I could go anywhere.”

“Every decision needed approval.”

Do you see a pattern with these answers? Someone has total power and control over another person with each of these statements. This type of abuse whittles one’s self esteem to nothing, yet for many of these victims, they do not consider themselves abused because no physical incidents took place. For the record, 95 percent of victims are women, and for the 5 percent who are male, the same dynamics of power and control apply. These types of comments come from the majority of potential volunteers I interview, regardless of religion. People sincerely believe if they’re not hit, it isn’t domestic abuse; but the invisible type of power and control is much more damaging. Bruises and broken limbs can heal naturally; low self-esteem and loss of confidence take years to regain, but that involves conscious awareness and counseling.

When I wrote this, I reminisced about the loving relationship my parents lived and therefore modeled for my brothers and me. I can’t imagine living any other way, but for the one in four women who experience abuse and the 5 percent of victims who are male, it’s horrific. These types of relationships also baffle family and friends who lack the understanding surrounding the complexities of domestic abuse. Knowledge is power, so learning about this complex dynamic is good, as is listening to what family and friends truly tell us. If you have questions, call the hotline, 913-262-2868, or me at 913-378-1518. The hotline offers wonderful information and resources. Shalom bayit … everyone’s home should be peaceful, safe, secure … a refuge. If it’s different, please know that you deserve more and help is available. 

Susan Lebovitz is volunteer manager and Jewish Outreach coordinator at SAFEHOME. Through its shelter and community services, SAFEHOME provides a healing atmosphere where survivors of domestic violence can gain inner strength, build self-esteem, explore options, and establish a life free of violence.