By Kim Bryan
SAFE San Juans executive director
Over the last few months, many islanders have shared questions and sadness about the loss of one of our own dear islanders: Abigail Finney.
“What could I have done and what if I had said something different or offered a helping hand?” Stories have been shared, many with tears and heartbreak, some with anger and fear.
I suspect our grief and anguish is not much different than the 46 other communities of grieving friends, families and coworkers of those who lost their lives to domestic violence in Washington in 2017.
I have come to a few conclusions. Now is the time. Our small community has had enough. In the seven and a half years I have served SAFE San Juans, our county has suffered three losses to domestic violence. The sheriff’s office reports every county homicide was related to domestic violence. It’s time to stop the silence surrounding these tragedies. Domestic violence is not a private matter. It is not a family secret. It is a crime with innocent victims whose voices are silenced long before their deaths.
To effect social change, we need to pull together and stand up for the innocent. U.S. Department of Justice statistics from 2010 tells us that one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by a partner. Are you choosing to look the other way, believing that you don’t know anyone experiencing this? Stop. Accept the truth that someone you know and love is affected by domestic violence.
Why is there so much shame surrounding this crime? We don’t cast shame on the victims of a robbery or mass shootings. Then why do we go along with the thought that domestic violence survivors carry a stigma that should keep the victim silent?
If we decide enough is enough – that we will no longer condone the controlling abuse of domestic violence by our silence – then there is hope for everyone.
Stand up. Speak out. Get educated and involved. SAFE San Juans has professionals ready to come to your civic clubs, staff meetings, church groups, private parties, etc. to teach you how to recognize and respond. For signs and suggestions, check out our newest brochure entitled, “Helping A Friend” at SAFEsj.org.
Call 911 if someone is in active danger. Call our 24/7 hotline to talk to a trained advocate, at 360-378-2345 on San Juan; 360-376-1234 on Orcas; and 360-468-4567 on Lopez. We can help you decide possible action to take.
Offer to listen to others, share resources, encourage them to call or come to our office. Believe the victim.
Caring, concerned citizens have established an account at Islanders Bank in honor of Abbie for SAFE San Juans. All donations will go directly to the client services, awareness, education and prevention work we do. Islanders bank has generously donated $500. You can mail donations to SAFE San Juans P.O. Box 1516 Eastsound, WA 98245, or directly deposit it in the Abigail Finney/SAFE San Juans account at any Islanders Bank.
If we all break the silence and take action then, perhaps, we will never again mourn the loss of one of our own dear islanders.