As October winds down, let’s take a serious look at why the month is devoted to Domestic Violence Awareness, and why the City of Myrtle Beach actively works to help victims and prosecute offenders.
Domestic violence is a state and national problem affecting more than 10 million Americans annually. The Myrtle Beach Police Department averages three to four domestic violence calls daily, and Officer Michele Paitsel is dedicated to handling these cases.
Every domestic violence call is different, but Officer Paitsel says one thing is constant: someone is always the victim. “Whether female or male, the victim has been abused by their partner, physically or mentally. Not only does violence hurt the victim, but it affects everyone in the household and anyone who witnesses the situation, especially children,” Piatsel says.
Domestic violence includes behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, destroy property or wound someone. It also can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats that influence another person.
“The victim is physically and emotionally upset and in a state of shock when we arrive,” Paitsel explains from experience. “The victim sometimes refuses to talk with police or give any information because they are afraid of what might happen if they do talk or if the offender goes to jail. They’re afraid of repercussions from the offender.”
But Officer Paitsel says that’s not the only reason victims may decline to cooperate with police. “The victim sometimes will not talk or come forward because they feel they are not victims. The victim believes it was his or her fault the abuse happened, or they don’t want to leave because the offender is the main provider for the household.”
The responding officer’s goal is to get the victim out of harm’s way. Each call is documented, whether it is a physical or verbal altercation. Paitsel says domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
“Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are among those seriously affected by the crime,” she adds. “Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life, consequently increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers.”
What should you do if you think someone is being abused? “If you see something, say something,” advises Officer Paitsel. “Let someone know, whether it is the police, a teacher or a friend. Speak up! If we don’t know about it, we cannot get the victim the help and resources he or she needs.”
“Victims are often apprehensive to talk to anyone because they are afraid of what might happen next,” Paitsel says, so you may need to be their voice. “Domestic violence victims often hide the truth to prevent the offender’s arrest, but that usually results in more abuse and injury for the victim.”
Signs of domestic violence can be physical or mental – or both. “Look for injuries to the victim, of course, but also threats to the victim or the family, property destruction and name-calling,” Paitsel cautions. “The abuser may exert power over the victim, making decisions for the victim or even blaming the victim for the abuse by claiming it was ‘their fault.’”
The message of Domestic Violence Awareness Month each October is: Don’t wait until you and the ones you love get hurt, to get help. Resources are available if you or someone you know is experiencing a domestic violence situation.
For help locally, contact The Family Justice Center (843-445-2583), New Directions for Women and Families (843-232-7055) or Street Reach Ministries – Men Only (843-945-4902). You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) and South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (803-256-2900).
If you are a victim or you know someone who is, “Call the police. Do not be afraid to report domestic violence. We are here to help,” Myrtle Beach Police Officer Michele Paitsel says.
With that in mind, Myrtle Beach recognized Domestic Violence Awareness Month city-wide during October. Even the Myrtle Beach City Council meetings were draped in purple in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Purple is meant to be a symbol of peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence.