Column response: ‘The vicim is never to blame’

Eyes Wide Open would like to thank Kevin Vanantwerpen for writing a personal story about
domestic violence. We applaud Kevin for immediately alerting the authorities once he realized
his friend was in danger, not blaming her for the abuse, and for continually supporting her.

Yet, after reading the article, we wanted to bring up some issues we thought needed to be
addressed. In the article, Kevin states that “the only way to guarantee [domestic violence]
doesn’t happen is to be smart…For the sake of yourself and the sake of people around you – be
careful the company you keep”. However, by telling people to be smart by being careful of the
people around them in order to prevent from being a victim, the article inadvertently blames the victim for what happens to them. Battering is a pattern; DV does not usually stop after the first abusive incident. Victims may be caught in a cycle of violence that includes periods of non- violence (where the victim may become hopeful the behavior will change), manipulation, self- blame, and more. Victims may also not leave a relationship due to financial reasons (i.e. loss of home, loss of income), distrust of the criminal justice system, or fear that the violence will increase if they try to leave. Therefore, it is important to know that it is not that women become and/or remain victims due to the “company they keep”, but rather because they feel they may not have other options. Instead, we feel it should be emphasized that prevention of domestic violence is not to blame the victim for the abuse, ask why they continue to associate with their abuser, or ask why they have not left the abusive relationship, but rather holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and supporting the victims and survivors.

Another problem we had with the article was with the statement, “There’s often little the police can do”. We feel that this will encourage victims to not report for fear they will either not be believed or little will be done to help them, which is not always the case within the criminal justice system. At Grand Valley, the GVSU police have specific protocol that they follow to ensure the needs of victims are met and they engage in ongoing training; most recently on sexual assault and stalking crimes. Upon connecting with Police or the Women’s Center, victims/survivors are connected with a variety of on-campus and off-campus resources (i.e. the GVSU Counseling Center, the YWCA domestic violence program, advocates through the Center for Women in Transition, etc.). Grand Valley has a system in place that can assist the victims if they would like the help. We would like to remind the GVSU community that there is a large support system for victims and survivors, and there are many resource options available to them.

Eyes Wide Open truly appreciates the thoughtful article Kevin has published. We thank him for
being there for his friend, for not being a passive bystander, and trying to do his part to change society’s current climate that accepts violence against women. As peer educators, we simply want to make sure that people understand that there are resources available, and that the victim is never to blame.

Until the Violence Stops,

Eyes Wide Open
GVSU Peer Educators on Sexual Violence
[email protected]