An Open Letter to Detective Ben Mitchell

Dear Detective Ben Mitchell,
a member of the Family Victims Unit in Greensboro, North Carolina:

You contributed to an article written by Joe Gamm and published 7 September in the News & Record on the uptick of homicides related to Domestic Violence: “Domestic violence-related deaths on rise in Greensboro“. I reacted with disbelief to many of the quotes attributed to you. I’ve outlined them below with my response, speaking as a survivor of Domestic Violence.

Comments on the article you contributed to are disabled. This world is full of people who believe victims deserve abuse, and perpetuating that by opening comments doesn’t help the matter, and so I am glad the comments are closed. I wouldn’t have wasted my breath leaving a comment. I would have more than likely been attacked for defending victims. Instead, I am addressing this letter directly to you, Detective Mitchell. I hope to shed some light on the crimes you are charged with responding to and investigating, for you and for society.

I’m going to take this quote by quote.

“A lot of times, there’s no warning,” said police Detective Ben Mitchell.

There is warning, it’s just those warnings are ignored. People turn a blind eye to black eyes and bruises, and those people include the police.

Very rarely is there no warning. I say very rarely because there is often no warning the first time a perpetrator attacks a victim. Sure, there are warning signs, red flags they are called, but those red flags aren’t generally recognizable until after the first punch is thrown. The jealousy, the screaming, the control, those things are red flags, warning signs, but until their pattern is recognized, they are pieces of behavior that just don’t make sense. And calling the police because someone is jealous or screaming doesn’t usually result in a response for Domestic Violence. More than one of us have heard “one person’s emotional abuse is another person’s bad day; call us when he hits you.”

Calling the police is also extremely dangerous for a victim of abuse. Think about this: if a perpetrator was willing to punch a victim for burning toast, what is he willing to do should that same victim call the police?

By the time the abuse has escalated to murder, there has been warning. The second, third, fourth, one-hundredth time a victim is abused, there was warning, and that warning was each and every time it occurred prior. And more often than not, at least one of those attacks has resulted in a call to police.

Mitchell, a member of the Family Victims Unit, said there are also places where the unit receives “calls for service after calls for service after calls for service.”

Let me clear something up for you. Each and every time a victim calls the police they believe that will be the day they finally stand up for themselves, stand up against the abuse, stand up and speak out. Calls are made to report abuse, and many times by the time the police arrive the victim has been threatened or coerced into refusing to press charges, and in that time fear of the abuser settles back where bravery tried to take hold. Fear has taken over the adrenaline that led to the call, and so the victim asserts the violence didn’t happen, wasn’t that bad, won’t happen again, was provoked, etc. And so the police, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and society-in-general blame the victim for not talking or talking but not pressing charges, and the victim-blaming circle is repeated.

Calls for service don’t always come with full-cycle service. Victims, through isolation and control, aren’t very well-educated on the ins and outs of services available to them. Their internet use is monitored, if they even have internet. Their comings and goings are monitored, if they are even allowed to come and go. Getting information isn’t something victims of Domestic Violence can do with any amount of safety.

Here are just some of the things I didn’t know until after I was out:

  • I didn’t know a restraining order meant he couldn’t move back in. I thought I had to move out.
  • I didn’t know that a restraining order meant his weapons would be removed from the home. I thought he could take his gun or sword and use it to exact his revenge.
  • I didn’t know that a shelter’s location was confidential. I thought he could show up and drag me out, or worse, leave me and take the children.
  • I didn’t know I would qualify for TANF, formerly known as welfare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps. I thought I wouldn’t have any way to support myself and my children.
  • I didn’t know about Legal Services. I thought I’d have to pawn my car to pay for a lawyer.
  • I didn’t know a Victim Advocate would be available to stand by my side in court. I thought I would face him alone.

Helping a victim understand what she can do after initiating charges would go a long way to reducing call after call after call for service to just a call for service.

“We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors,” Mitchell said. “If no one comes forward, we’ll never know.”

Closed doors hide a lot: drugs, abuse, prostitution, kidnappings, etc. Every closed-door is hiding a secret. Some are simply alternative sex lives between husbands and wives, others are far more severe.

People are coming forward, otherwise you wouldn’t have “calls for service after calls for service after calls for service.”

“Randy Jones, the public information officer for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, said the county realized a few years ago that about half its homicides were related to domestic violence.” This tells me you know. All the officers know. Domestic Violence is on the rise, and that is known.

You may never know what’s going on behind a closed-door until that door is opened, but you know it is happening. Try asking instead of waiting to be told. You’re an office, you have officer’s instinct. Ask. Asking someone if they are a victim of DV isn’t going to make them a victim, but how they answer, looking at physical and verbal cues, will tell you if they are.

Many issues can factor into domestic violence, Mitchell said — finances, health, trust, family problems and illnesses among them.

There are not many issues that factor into Domestic Violence, there are two: power and control. Everything else falls under these two categories. The fear and intimidation, the isolation and monitoring, the gaslighting and lying, the belittling, the throwing objects and punching all come down to the perpetrator demanding absolute power and control over the victim.

The stresses of finances, health, family problems, and illnesses are simply excuses perpetrators use to rationalize their behavior. They are not issues factoring into Domestic Violence. They are excuses. Call it semantics, but it’s important.

Just because someone lost their job doesn’t give them a viable reason to punch their wife. Just because someone has high blood pressure doesn’t give them a viable reason to punch their wife. Just because someone’s parents are suddenly divorcing after thirty years of marriage doesn’t give them a viable reason to punch their wife. Just because someone has the flu doesn’t give them a viable reason to punch their wife.

“The thing about domestic violence is there so much emotion in it,” Mitchell said. “Just true, raw emotion.”

Oh my, yes! There is so much emotion. The perpetrator is angry. The victim is scared. The emotions shown in an incident of Domestic Violence are true and raw. They are honest. The perpetrator will show his true colors. He will blame his victim for provoking his emotions. The victim will likely be crying. She may even yell, and, gasp, curse. What she is saying to you in the heat of emotion is likely everything she wishes she could say to the man who put her in this position. She is projecting on you as her abuser projects on her. Listen.

Listen to what she is saying. Read between the lines, and the truth of the true and raw emotions will reveal itself. Let her yell. Let her get it out. Do not interrupt. And when she collapses at your feet in absolute exhaustion, tell her you hear her. Letting a victim of Domestic Violence know she’s been heard will do more for her than anything else you can do. I hear you. Say it. Practice it. I hear you. Those three little words are the single most important words you can utter.

Detective Mitchell, I hope you’ll take the time and energy to speak to survivors, doctors and nurses, and advocates to truly grasp the dynamics of Domestic Violence.

Will you go to a local DV shelter and talk, with an open mind and an open heart, to some of the survivors staying there? Ask them to explain to you why they didn’t call the police, why they didn’t press charges, why they chose to sneak out under the cover of darkness rather that watch from the front lawn as their abuser was taken away in handcuffs. Will you stick around at the ER one night? Talk to doctors and nurses setting broken bones and stitching knife wounds about what they hear from victims in their care. Will you go to the next vigil for victims? Talk to advocates about what they’ve seen and heard about the system. Gather this knowledge, and become a bigger part of the greater solution. Please.

Thank you for reading, Detective Mitchell, and all officers involved in responding to Domestic Violence calls.

Sincerely,

Melanie
Survivor of Domestic Violence

Advertisements

31 comments

  1. Also being a victim of domestic violence, couldnt have said it any better. Good reply to him. Thank you for taking your time.

    1. Thank you. I couldn’t let this one pass. I had to say something, and since I have this space to speak out, I decided to use it. Thank you for reading.

  2. God bless you for speaking out and answering a bumbling idiot of an officer! reblogging.

    1. Even though I know it was up to the reporter as to which quotes were used where and how, I wasn’t happy with the overall impression of Detective Mitchell’s words. I had to say something before it boiled over.

  3. Right on. This is a great blog. I invite you to visit mine. I worked in DV for years and helped to start and run a shelter in the 70’s. It still exists with a half of a million dollar budget. The pain and grief abusers cause repeats itself over and over again. Best wishes to you and remember:
    YOU CAN’T BEAT A WOMAN. Hugs, Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara,
      I love the double meaning behind “you can’t beat a woman”. I will come over and read you.
      I am glad to hear your shelter still exists. I spent six weeks in one and it made all the difference in my escape.
      Thank you for reading,
      Melanie

      1. I am here anytime you need to talk. Hugs, Barbara

  4. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    YOU CAN’T BEAT A WOMAN!!

  5. This made me cry, you said it for all of us, wow. xo

    1. Thank you Zoe! I was even brave enough for just long enough to tweet it to the Greensboro PD.

      1. That’s great!!

  6. THERE IS NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES AN EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST A WOMAN. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. NO EXCUSES, NO MATTER WHAT SHE DID/DOES…NONE, THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE. GET IT? NONE…EVER…NEVER. NO EXCUSE. IF YOU HIT SOMEONE IT’S YOUR FAULT AND YOUR FAULT ALONE…PERIOD. VIOLENCE IS A CHOICE MADE BY SOMEONE. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE HIT, PUNCHED, SHOT, CUT, KICKED OR ABUSED IN ANYWAY. STOP IT…NOW. IF YOU ARE VIOLENT CHOOSE TO ACT DIFFERENTLY…IN A NON VIOLENT WAY. NO EXCUSE…EVER

    1. YES! Exactly.

  7. Beautifully said. I will reblog this on my site. Sadly enough I am not surprised at the lack of knowledge most officers and judges have on DV. In NJ DYFS (the division of youth and family services) still blame the victim for not leaving. Its sick! Thanks for standing up for all of us!

    1. I think most state’s DYFS blame the victim for not leaving instead of blaming the perpetrator for abusing. The victims are not putting their children in danger, the abuser is. Agencies need to begin to work to educate victims rather than blame victims. Like I said above, there was entirely too much that I didn’t know until after I left, and I didn’t leave thanks to any help from police or family services.

      1. I agree 100%! I was in the local welfare office on Friday and I bumped into my old DYFS case worker, She told me that 3 months after my case was closed she quit-she said she couldnt sleep at night after the way I was treated and then she told me that she was a survivor as well ( I had an idea) Here in NJ there are supposed to be DV advocates in the local DYFS offices, but I think they are just there for show…its sick…

        1. I hope the DV advocates in these offices begin to work more towards helping everyone in the office understand the dynamics of domestic violence.

          1. They are all untrained-its insane. I always feel that if you are not a survivor how can you really help someone understand-you know the “book knowledge” but it is not a substitute for the actual experience. I only trusted those who said they were survivors bc I knew they truly understood…

            1. Only a survivor knows what it’s like to walk a mile in a victim’s shoes.

              1. I agree. There is something special when you can look at someone and say- you dont have to explain yourself or use excuses. I GET IT, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. I AM HERE TO HELP…

  8. Reblogged this on The left side and commented:

    This is a MUST read!

  9. Thank you for sharing Melanie, sometimes outlining the facts helps prevent repeated abuse being accepted as the norm.

    As I shared before I went to Sydney, I was also a victim but as I look back I have compassion. I’m not saying violence is acceptable in any way, it is not!!! but we have to realise that the perpetrator is hurting too …Hurt people hurt people BUT WHY my husband use to cry after he bashed me, he was so sorry he had, he grew up in a violent home, he had great inner fear, why did I stay until I was warned by a Doctor to leave him being nearly out of my mind with fear and pain, because I cared and thought I could help my husband but the more I tried the more of a mess it became and I was also messed up too having been abused in my childhood, molested and raped but with forgiving them all came lifesaving Peace.

    Violence breads violence, abuse is contagious, sometimes by our Parents example we can be victims or perpetrators of abuse and it is not always physical. I remember saying in my pain and hurt some very unkind things which left festering sores in my husbands heart, what should I have done, seek help but like many I was frightened to even talk about it and unlike what you shared, at the time there was not much help for victims.

    Thank you again Melanie for speaking out, I hear your heart voice.

    Christian Love from us both – Anne

    1. Yes, hurt people hurt, and that’s no excuse to hurt another. Compassion is important, for us. Without it, the pain and anger and hate breed more pain and anger and hate. Compassion for them only goes so far. If it inspires change within these abusers, great!, but if not, we have to let them go because they will never stop.
      Thank you for your comment. There is more help for victims now than there ever has been, but it’s at risk of budget cuts and a myriad of other outside influences seeking to destroy it. We can only keep speaking out.

      1. Yes it is very True Melanie, hurt people hurt people and this is not right but we have all hurt people including God, it is easy to say I forgive but letting go of bitterness and resentment takes genuine forgiveness which only comes from the Lord.

        When I have shared with others over the years and read accounts of abuse, I see hate not forgiveness, even with those who claim to have Faith, although some claim they have forgiven but there is no compassion for the abusive person who unless they repent will go to hell and this is a reality that the Scriptures confirm, do I understand why they are resentful, more than a lot of others do but it is still wrong and will eat away any goodness which is within those who hold onto hate, resentment and bitterness and this is what Satan wants and he too is very much a reality.

        Loving God is Loving people, even the unloving, this does not mean we have to accept the evil they do or what they propagate, we are to stand against anything that God calls evil, it is not Love to accept it into our lives or homes and for us our Blogs too but we still pray from the heart for them, they are people of worth who Jesus died for but it is always their choice if the accept Him and His sacrifice for them.

        God, meaning our Heavenly Father, our Creator and our Comforter, The Godhead or Trinity as They are called today, Three in One, cannot change a persons heart or mind by force, they have to want His intervention, He does not want puppets to Love and obey Him. As Christians we are Jesus Christ’s Body , His hands, arms feet and voice, we need to offer genuine Love and forgiveness , yes it may be rejected, when evil is in the heart of man they can’t handle goodness but we are still to offer it but without compromising our stand for The Lord, meaning join them or pass on the evil they do or we too will reap what we sow.

        I’m not saying we go on living with violent abuse, this only leads to more abuse, which I realised after years of trying to change my first husband who had been a victim of evil too, we are to live in peace. Marriage in God’s eyes is to be Holy which reflects and honours Him and for a good Marriage that is eternal it takes two and both need to focus on The Lord 100% seeking His direction not what is accepted and promoted by the world and both need to go on forgiving until they are perfected in Love, which will be shown in words and actions.

        I’m not talking about rituals or programmes of the Church or empty outward washing or sprinkling of the body or using Scripture out of context to justify unloving thoughts and actions but True heart repentance and Love both for God and others and this does not happen until we are ready to let go of our hate for those who have hurt us, whether that be unintentionally or wilfully. If we don’t forgive we will continue to abuse ourselves and eventually others too but we cannot Love sacrificially and forgive until we do have True heart repentance for the wrong we have done too and when we do as we seek God with all our heart and our all, we will be empowered to move on in His Love, which is not saccharine sweet but is strong and eternal, offering genuine Peace and deep inner Joy regardless of the circumstances and a Hope that never dies.

        Christian Love – Anne

  10. Melanie, this is amazing, and true, detail to these experiences. If only there had been something like this years ago for many in my family to read and/or follow.

    On another note, honestly, there’s not post that you’ve put out since I found you that doesn’t make me just want to hold you, and wish I could put you and the kids in the safest place ever.

    Keep taking care,
    Robyn

    1. Hi Robyn, Thank you! It’s becoming easier to speak out, but it’s still hard. I was nervous about this one, but I knew I needed to say something because the words weren’t leaving even after the frustration at his words began to calm itself.
      Someday each of us will be in a safe place. Until then, I can only show them how much I love them and remind him I will never forget what he is.

  11. Bob, the Dad of a Daughter of abuse. · · Reply

    I think you SHOULD send a “hard copy”, to both Detective Ben Mitchell and the reporter Joe Gamm. WHO knows, maybe Joe Gamm might do a follow up article or at least least ask the Greensboro, NC police WHAT are you doing about this. I know two county officers here that I think you should also send it to.
    I LOVE reading what you have written, but it also saddens me deeply for what you have had to endure.

    1. I’ve sent copies to the Greensboro PD and Joe Gamm via Twitter. Sending an old fashioned hard copy might not be a bad idea. Joe Gamm is the Crime reporter/blogger for the News & Record, so it would be nice to see a follow-up from him.

  12. Oh dear God how hard to read this post. It is truly heartbreaking. I hope you achieve SOMETHING with this. I hope that someone will LISTEN!!

    1. I hope so too, but I highly doubt it. They’ve not answered me after two days of trying, and it’s not like police work your standard 9-5.

speak loudly, donkeys are sleeping

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: