Published in THE NEW LONDON TIMESJuly 23, 2004, page 5

[Editor’s note:  The following opinion is provided in English with a Spanish translation. It relates to an incident at the Crystal Avenue apartments in which two children were left dead after a domestic dispute]

By B.M. and Carmen Santiago

Last April 19, the city of New London suffered a tragedy that has left us all shocked and saddened.  Two innocent children lost their lives and two women were injured by an act of violence that is all too common.  This repugnant act has left an aftermath of physical, psychological and social lesions to the particular families and to the entire community.  We all feel specially sad, angry, frustrated and vulnerable because such  a terrible event.  It is precisely at this moment that we must use these strong emotions to guide our abilities to analyze our reality, and to change our social and material resources so that this type of event will never happened again.

It is evident that the phenomenon of family violence is and continues to be one of the most frequent and yet ‘hidden” crimes committed in our societies.  According to the FBI, a women is beaten or assaulted every 18 seconds.  Each year between 2 million ad 6 million women are assaulted by their current or former domestic partner, to such an extent that they must seek medical care in the emeregncy room.

Some of the victims of family violence never reveal the abuse they endure, and when they do seek public redress or help, the victims often do not receive fair and appropriate treatment.  This neglect intensifies the impact of these crimes leading to even great and more tragic events with profound economic and social implications.

In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a law to eradicate violence against women call the Violence Against Women Act.  This act attempts to eradicate all manifestations of family violence and sexual aggression against women.

VAWA has a variety of important and useful stipulations that women need to be aware of in order to use the law more frequently.  It is OUR responsibilty as women to make sure the law is respected and in force.

The restraining order is among the most important stipulations.  This order protects the victims against potential aggressors; it forbids the aggressor access to the victim’s residence and regulates children visitation.

It is a difficult and complicated task for a woman suffering from family violence to break this cycle, especially if there is misinformation, lack of help from and knowledge about the responsible agencies, institutions and infrastructure.  The following fact, unfortunately, underscores the lack of priority the question of domestic abuse receives:

According to data offered by the Julian Center, in the United States there are 3,800 animal shelters, while, on the other hand, there are 1,500 shelters for abused women.

As a community we must face many challenges in order to provide a healthy civil life for women and our children:

* We must promote a free-violence education since early years.

* We must ensure that women experiencing family violence have a place to go for protection and moral and material support.

* We must guarantee a safe and fair access to a legal system that advocates for women and their rights.

* We must ensure GREATER access to information about the current institutions and to encourage the creation of new agencies that will support and instruct families that suffer from domestic violence.

* We must guarantee that schools play a LEADING role in addressing early violent behavior in young people.

* We must identify and eliminate violence against women and children as the “social norm” so that our children do not have to suffer other events like those of April 19,

This entry was posted on October 6, 2012.