Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer

The news has come fast and furious lately. Possible domestic abuse murder in Chelsea. Domestic violence murder-suicides in Waltham, Westborough, Dedham, and in the western part of the state. Domestic violence-related double murder and then suicide in Lynnfield.

How can we possibly absorb so much violent news, let alone imagine how someone could pick up a knife or a gun or even his or her own hands and make the decision to deliberately take the life of the person that, married or not, he or she has promised to love and cherish. It is on the one hand inconceivable, and yet again, we know this scenario too well. Barraged with the details of so many innocent deaths, the tragic and often shocking results of domestic abuse are overwhelming for all of us.

One way to cope with these tragic events is to take action in even the smallest ways. While it may be impossible to know if someone we know is being abused, we would argue that being a bit more in touch with those in your community is a wonderful step to take. Here are a few things to consider, especially during the long winter months when many of us turn inward and stay inside, closing the doors against the dark and cold.

  1. Notice who is missing. Domestic abuse thrives in silence and isolation. Check in with your neighbors or friends that you haven't seen or spoken with for a while. We all like to know that we are thought about.
  2. Be a kind neighbor, friend, family member – listen with the understanding that it's a complex process for someone to decide to leave an abuser. Our clients tell us that any warm, caring gesture means more than you may ever know.

Of course not all those being abused are entirely cut off from their community. Many tell of leading double-lives, working incredibly hard to conceal what's really happening at home. However, many others recall the profound silence of a life lived either almost entirely at home or always under the watchful eye of an abusive partner.

In this month of bringing light into a dark world and embracing people we care about, it's important to check in. You don't have to have all of the answers, but you might just be the one who offers supportive words, a safe phone, or the encouragement someone needs to reach out for help.

If you or someone you care about would like to talk, please reach out. The Journey to Safety staff is here Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. We can be reached at 781-647-JFCS (5327). If you want to talk to someone at night or on weekends, please call the statewide domestic abuse hotline at 877-785-2020. We are here to speak with survivors, but we are also here to assist and support concerned friends and family members. No one has to walk this path alone – not survivors, not those who love and care about them.

Elizabeth Schön Vainer is the program director of Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse. Elizabeth is pleased to bring her many years of experience collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to investigate child and domestic abuse to Journey to Safety and JF&CS. She believes that only through collaborative efforts can we truly serve our clients. Elizabeth has a BSW from the University of Tel Aviv and a MS in Organization and Management from Antioch University.