Two recent homicides in Northeastern Wisconsin illustrate the danger that lurks in abusive relationships.
Ouida Wright, 45, of Green Bay, and Patricia Waschbisch, 45, of Peshtigo, were victims of domestic violence, according to police.
But they were more than just domestic abuse statistics. They were daughters, mothers, friends and family members. They were loved and are now missed. They are the victims, not the perpetrators.
Yet, in these cases, some people may point out the victims bear some of the blame for not leaving the relationship sooner. While that decision might seem clear-cut to an outsider, or for someone not in an abusive relationship, it's not that logical when you're the victim.
"I'm dismayed at some of the victim blaming that I see come across in the community," said Karen Faulkner, executive director of Golden House, a domestic abuse program in Green Bay. "I think that takes the ownership of the issue away from the offender."
There are myriad reasons victims stay. Those reasons can be financial, social, religious, emotional, as well as for the sake of their children.
Blaming the victim ignores the cycle of abuse and the power and control the abuser has. "It's not just one day this happened," Faulkner said. "Violence like this is not just one interaction. It's a long history of building a relationship that's based on power and control."
The right reaction, according to Faulkner, would be to ask how we can support victims when they are leaving relationships because that is when danger is the greatest.
In the two recent cases, both victims had indicated they were ending the relationship, law enforcement officials say.
Almost half of what are called "intimate partner homicides" occur when the victim is attempting to leave the abusive partner, according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Of the 1,842 homicides in Wisconsin between 2000 and 2010, 532 were related to domestic violence - 13 of those in Brown County. In 2011, 40 people were killed in cases of domestic violence in Wisconsin.
Family, friends and neighbors can help by offering support to the victim in suspected cases of abuse. Golden House offers valuable tips on how to help someone you know who's in a violent relationship.
Whether you feel comfortable listening without judging, helping a victim escape, or continuing to support someone who is not ready to leave such a relationship, the key is to do something. Get others involved, if necessary. Ignoring the problem is not the answer. Nor is blaming the victim.