Honi Goldman is a media relations executive, owner of HMG Media Relations and a longtime Kentucky activist and friend of the Mary Byron Project.
We’re making progress – the domestic abuse charges against celebrity jockey Robby Albarado would never have come to light 20 years ago, much less have been covered by the news media.
But clearly, we have a long way to go in preventing this abuse from happening in the first place.
Albarado’s conviction this afternoon illustrates how the police, the legal system, therapists and a growing number of neighbors, friends and relatives will no longer dismiss these violent acts as “private” or as being exaggerated by a scorned partner.
Women now don’t have to be found dead in order for the courts and society to validate the abuse. However,these women do have to be physically abused – with documentation of photos, medical records, even rape kits along with testimonies of doctors.
While physical injuries are the most obvious telling signs, the emotional and psychological abuse are the first warning signs.
Most of us today can recite the still unchanged statistics of how one in four women is abused, but domestic violence still remains one of the most chronically under-reported crimes.
A major reason is that friends, relatives and co-workers are reluctant to confront the abuser on what he did and has done. What those well-meaning people do not understand is that when any kind of abusive behavior occurs, that is not a time for friends and relatives to keep quiet or be discrete because that only encourages more severe abuse.
Albarado had been charged with domestic violence actions last year by his wife. Why didn’t his friends and relatives and co-workers prevent this from happening again? What were they waiting for, a dead body?
We, as a society, need to become more active in order to prevent such acts from happening, and part of that effort is to support the woman who sends up a red flag that a specific person is an abuser.
With a definite profile and pattern of behavior, abusers are known for being extremely charming as well as convincing on how they are a good spouse and parent. They are particularly persuasive that any claim of abuse is unjustified or the person is “crazy”. Some relatives, friends, and co-workers find it uncomfortable to admit that their so pleasant friend is in fact a perpetrator, especially when abusers are skilled in executing extremely well thought out and detailed lies.
The preliminary signs of escalating abuse to a life threatening conclusion are always painfully evident, to all those professional people, relatives and friends who chose to deny and ignore. And that refusal to see a person’s abusive behavior only reinforces to his children that no one would believe them since no one would believe their mother.
This specific Albarado trial goes a long way to remind people that a high profile personality can indeed be “not a nice person,” and they can be prosecuted without victims becoming ostracized.
But for all those cases that do not end up in the legal system and are not highly publicized, victims need to be encouraged to inform the next woman who has become involved with her former husband or boy friend, without the fear of coming off as catty or having sour grapes.
Abuse is not situational: It carries over from one relationship to another. The next person needs to warned of potential abusive, even life threatening behavior.
Recently, in a very unscientific survey, I asked the following question to assorted friends and relatives: “If you know that a man has a history of mentally and physically abusing many women, do you tell his next victim?”
The response range from with “Stay out, none of his/her damned business” to “Put his name on a billboard on I-65″.
Experts on domestic violence say that the way to stop abuse is to expose the abusive actions and to have societal repercussions against the perpetrator. Friends, relatives, co-workers, and clergy need to stop diminishing and/or rationalizing these crimes, and start actively shunning the abuser.
So let us all vow to risk offending a friend, butt in to someone’s personal life and exclude those who commit abuse from our public events.
Only then will the statistics of this crime finally start changing to a lower number of incidents.
This post has been reprinted from InsiderLouisville.com with the express permission of the author.
To find out more about the cycles of domestic abuse and the profile of an abuser, see our website.