By ALI ANDERSON
Domestic violence can be prevented through education, not just prosecution, said the domestic violence program coordinator of the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
“It’s our job in society to stop the violence by more education,” said Brandy Farmer, a domestic violence survivor as well as the coordinator of the Utah Attorney General’s office. Farmer spoke to students Thursday in conjunction with BYU’s annual abuse conference.
The Attorney General’s Office prosecutes abuse cases but also has educational programs about domestic violence that are designed to stop the crime before it starts.
The “Safe at Home” program teaches Utahns “the dynamics of domestic violence and shows victims how to access treatments and resources,” Farmer said. The program has educated almost one million people throughout the state since its creation in 1995.
People cannot remove themselves from the problem of abuse, Farmer said. Domestic violence affects all who associate with victims, she said.
“It’s important for neighbors to know that they can be affected by the violence. It really hits close to home for everyone,” Farmer said.
Friends of abuse victims should not directly interfere, Farmer said. Encouraging victims to seek education about treatment and safe places to go is the best way to help, she said.
Neighbors should not tell victims to flee abusive situations, Farmer said.
“If a victim comes to you and tells you they’re being abused, you can’t tell the victim to leave. The victim is the only one that can make that decision,” she said.
Drawing on personal experiences, Farmer said the trauma of abusive relationships never leaves most victims.
“When someone is victimized, that impact of the victimization is with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Victims must heal emotionally after being abused, Farmer said. The “Safe at Home” program teaches people how to help abuse victims love themselves again.
“Listen, be supportive and show concern for their safety. Don’t abandon them because of your frustrations about the situation,” she said.
Farmer was abused by her ex-husband for seven years before she escaped to a YWCA Center in Salt Lake City. Farmer said she and her two children lived in constant fear of death.
“I was at his mercy all the time. I woke up every morning believing that I was going to die that day,” she said.
Often, abusers create reasons to be violent, Farmer said.
“I tried to be perfect, but it didn’t matter. He would be upset if I forgot to bring milk home from the store,” Farmer said.
Victims can also benefit from education about abuse, said Cindee Wahle, a former volunteer at a women’s shelter. However, denial often stops victims from seeking help.
“Education is really important, but it only works as long as your mind listens,” said Wahle, 18, a freshman from Cokato, Minn., majoring in international development.
Utahns must open their eyes to the problem of abuse, said LaNae Valentine, director of BYU Women’s Services. The “Safe at Home” program is an effective way to teach Utahns how to deal with abuse, she said.
“Domestic violence in the state of Utah is more of a problem than people may think,” Valentine said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misidentified Cindee Wahle as a domestic abuse survivor. During high school, Ms. Wahle was a volunteer at a women’s shelter that dealt with victims of domestic abuse, but was not herself a victim of abuse. The Daily Universe regrets the error.
The Daily Universe strives for accuracy in its reporting, and corrects any error that is brought to its attention. We appreciate Ms. Wahle for doing so.