By Edward Lindsey and Chuck Spahos?
Georgia’s judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, advocates and criminal justice officials are as committed, well trained and caring as any in the nation and Georgia has many excellent family violence laws on the books. Georgia should be a very safe place for women, children and men. And yet, Georgia has lost 12 lives to domestic violence in less than two weeks.
LaGrange, Augusta, Columbus, Canton, Buford, Sandy Springs, Smyrna. In the last two weeks, fathers and present and former husbands and boyfriends have allegedly killed their partners or ex-partners, children and sometimes themselves in these cities; this is unacceptable. Violence against women is a widespread societal disease in our nation and our state. Enough.
We should all be troubled opening up the newspaper to a familiar story — a woman trying to leave an abusive relationship, murdered. She may have left the house, filed for a protective order, started a new relationship, started living her life free of fear, filed for a divorce or called the police. The circumstances vary, but these murders follow a pattern. Generally, the man she once trusted to come into her life becomes increasingly possessive, controlling and threatening. He may have isolated her from her family and friends, caused her to lose her job, or questioned every decision she made. He most likely has physically hurt her or even threatened her life, her family’s lives or his own with a gun or other means. We have long focused on providing women shelter and giving them access to services. These are vital, lifesaving projects, and we encourage anyone who is experiencing abuse to call the statewide hotline — 1-800-334-2836 (1-800-33-HAVEN). However, more is needed on the personal front to stand up and refuse to accept this widespread epidemic.
First, we can lead by example through healthy relationships and model this to our children and our communities. Second, we must speak up. It is our personal responsibility to step back and think about our role in ending domestic violence — how we can engage with men and boys to talk, really talk, about ending abuse.
Domestic violence is the systematic use of abusive tactics to compel submission of one person to another in an intimate relationship. Waiting until the physical violence erupts may be too late. When we suspect that something isn’t right in a friend or family’s relationship, we must act early. We need to say that their controlling behavior will drive their family away from them; their children may fear them; and their abuse may land them in jail. We have to challenge the notion that a girlfriend or wife “made me do it.” We must also tell them there is another way — they can change.
Family violence is not a women’s issue. It is a human issue, and we all need to stand together against it. You can contact organizations like the Georgia Commission on Family Violence to get involved with other men in your community. And you can begin the conversations in your life — at work, in your faith community, with your neighbors and at home. We pledge to have these conversations in our own lives. We pledge to do our part to stop the domestic violence and killing of women in Georgia.
State Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, is majority whip in the Georgia House and on the executive committee of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.