I had already finished writing my column last week when my inbox dinged with a note from Francine Scoboria.
She’s the communications coordinator for Safe Berks and had provided me with information for that column drawing attention to the organization’s annual Silent Witness March and the issue of domestic violence in our community.
She had talked about the pandemic’s impact on domestic violence and on the agency, offering valuable insight into what advocates are rightly calling a community issue and public health crisis.
“You are probably done writing your column, but I have been thinking, and I just wanted to send this info over to you,” Scoboria wrote in the email.
I wrote back to her, yes, my column was finished, but maybe I could use the information for another column.
As I reread her note it was apparent that what she had sent was important information that needed to be shared.
In fact, it followed up something she had raised in her initial comments to me.
“I think the most important action a person can take is to educate themself about the issue of domestic violence so that they will notice red flags of abuse,” Scoboria had said.
Those signals that someone may be experiencing violence in a relationship.
“Domestic violence is all about control,” Scoboria said. “The single biggest red flag for people to watch out for is an intimate partner who tries to control you. The control can start with small things — how you dress, how you wear your hair. It can include how you spend your time, who you spend your time with.”
And it can extend to one’s finances, with an abuser exerting control over access to money, even if the victim earned that money, she said.
When a victim decides to leave the relationship it often increases the danger, sometimes to a potentially fatal level, Scoboria said.
And that can be when police become involved.
Scoboria noted that Safe Berks provides Lethality Assessment Program training for several police departments in Berks. The program, started in Maryland in 2004, first came to Berks in 2014.
Police carry a card with 11 questions. If victims answer “yes” to several of the questions, police contact a hotline that connects the victim to resources.
“This tool can help police identify situations where violence can quickly become lethal,” Scoboria said.
As more of us become aware of these red flags the hope is we take action before the situation becomes deadly.
“Abusers are skilled at using power and control over their victims, which can make leaving the situation difficult and dangerous,” Scoboria said. “One of the best ways to help someone in an abusive situation is to listen to them.
“Let them know you care and that free help is available. Help them understand that they are not responsible for, nor do they deserve the abuse.”
Common red flags of abuse include:
• Name calling or demeaning comments.
• Someone who seems too good to be true early in a relationship; the relationship may advance very quickly.
• Frequent phone calls or texts.
• Threatens to harm or kill you, your pet(s) or family members.
• Blames you for the abusive behavior; does not take responsibility for actions.
• Prevents you from spending time with family or friends and from enjoying hobbies and other activities.
Common warning signs of an abusive situation:
• Their partner puts them down in front of other people.
• They are constantly worried about making their partner angry.
• They make excuses for their partner’s behavior.
• Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
• They have unexplained marks or injuries.
• They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family.
• They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality.
Where to find help
• Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know are in immediate danger.
• To seek the help of an advocate or to contact Safe Berks, call the 24-hour hotline, 844-789-SAFE (7233) or text SAFE BERKS to 20121.
• Safe Berks provides free and confidential services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault 24 hours a day. All services are available in English and Spanish, and translation will be used for any other language needed.
Source: Berkshire mont