Curbing Violence With Education
Wednesday - January 30, 2008
Two - make that three - horrific deaths since the start of the year have left us reeling. Depressed. Little Cyrus Belt, thrown like a broken rag doll onto the freeway. Janel Tupuola, a mother of five savagely beaten in broad daylight while onlookers, helpless and horrified, stood by. Jenny Hartsock - stabbed to death in her home. Her friends said she had been trying to leave the abusive husband who is now charged with the crime.
Let us be clear about the life and death of baby Cyrus - no matter what one may think of his mother and her struggles with addiction, she is not responsible for his death. We can say she should have been a better mother, that she made a lot of mistakes, but she is not the killer.
We can speculate all we want about whether he should have been removed from his home, thus saving his life, but at this point we simply don’t know. Lillian Koller of the Department of Human Services has opened the records of this family, and rightfully so. The investigation should take place with the eyes of the public looking on. The system has to be examined and then corrected.
We do know that Matthew Higa, the man who witnesses say threw Cyrus to his death, has a history of mental illness and drug use. What treatment did he receive? What more could have been done? We need to know, because right now we feel helpless.
There are some things we can do, however, especially in the area of domestic violence. We must continue to educate all sectors of our society about household violence - there still are too many people out there who don’t have a clear understanding of what it is and how to stop it.
We can send strong messages to perpetrators that violence is unacceptable. We can make victims understand that there are many forms of abuse - physical, sexual and emotional. One of the most important things for them to know is they are not alone. We need to let them know that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that it is not their fault. And then we need to give them our support and help when they are ready to get out.
The one thing we cannot do is to keep silent. If you suspect abuse, talk to her. It might give her the opening she needs to seek help. It could save her life.
And finally, we need to make sure we tell women and girls how to safely get out of abusive relationships. If they don’t know that their lives are at risk, we need to tell them. Convince them that they need a plan. Give them the phone number of the Domestic Violence Action Center: 531-3771.
We do not know if we could have saved any of them. But we have to keep trying.
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