Do not revictimnize the victim

Recently, The Leader-Herald ran an article about a Montgomery County sheriff deputy who allegedly broke into his estranged wife’s home in the middle of the night to “talk” with her about their break down of their marriage.

Ray Waldynski allegedly entered the home while his “soon-to-be” ex-wife was sleeping. According to a news release from the police, he allegedly was in uniform and he was driving his patrol car.

It is a known fact that relationships marred by domestic violence are very complex. Some people commenting on social media are blaming the woman for “changing her mind” several days later by deciding she wanted him arrested for the break in and wanting an order of protection issued.

Some on social media question why did she talk with him for so long (10 minutes) and why did she wait two days to change her mind.

As a survivor of a childhood marred with domestic violence and a survivor of a marriage that also involved not only physical beatings, but large doses of verbal and mental abuse, I know a little about domestic violence and how the abused person’s mind often works. I also garnered some of my expertise on the research and interviews I conducted after I was awarded a New York State Council of the Arts grant to produce an exhibit of black and white photography along with the own-voice narratives of survivors of domestic abuse. I have become an expert of sorts on domestic violence and the impact it has on families and the complexity of the relationships.

During my research for the exhibit, one of my duties was to man the 24-hour hotline for survivors who wanted help, a compassionate listener on the other end of the phone line or just a little understanding. I also received middle-of-the-night calls from the abusers themselves, looking for the woman who managed to slip away from them. They wanted sympathy too, often seeing themselves as the “victims.” And, more often than not, they wanted directions where to find the errant spouse.

While I cannot tell you for certain what went on in the deputy’s former home, what I can tell you is that at one time, that man and that woman were in love. In some ways, she probably still does love him — or rather, she probably still loves the man he was when she fell in love with him. She does not love who he is now in their relationship and he doesn’t understand that. The abuser does not see the failure of the marriage as their fault — it is the fault of the person who finally wants out.

It is always difficult for an abused woman (or abused man) to make the decision to have someone arrested for a domestic violent situation. That is why the vast majority of incidents go unreported.

It is wrong to victimize the victim again. That is why domestic violence was as prevalent as it was. I was accustomed to joking my ex-husband beat me “once or twice” a year whether I needed it or not. It was not a joke and there were times I truly thought I was going to die. But before I learned boundaries and self-respect, I didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Dear Reader, are you aware that between 1959 and 1975, 58,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam? Do you realize that during that same time period, 51,000 American women were murdered by their male partners?

It does not matter that the victim in this case talked to her soon-to-be ex-husband for one minute or 100. Survivors of domestic violence do what they must in the moment to “survive.” It also does not matter that it took her a couple of days to sort through her feelings and finally decide to press charges.

What does matter, is this person felt it was within their rights to enter a home they no longer lived in, in the middle of the night, to “discuss” the relationship.

If the charges are true, that deputy is guilty of abusing his power, his position and his ex-spouse. Period. It is not the victim who is on trial; it is the alleged abuser.