(Gillette, Wyo.) Statewide statistics show a significant decrease in the number of violent crimes reported in Wyoming this year, but the number of domestic violence cases in Gillette are increasing at an alarming rate.
This year alone, Gillette has seen the number of domestic violence cases increase by 15 percent from the total number of cases seen last year and Margie McWilliams, director of the Gillette Abuse Refuge Foundation, says that number could climb higher still as the fiscal year comes to an end.
The number of domestic violence cases in Gillette however, do not reflect the number of violent crimes for the county and the state, which show a decrease in violent crime between 2016 and 2017.
According to the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation, the number of violent crimes in Campbell County reported for the first and second quarters of 2017 has, statistically, dropped dramatically and the numbers for Wyoming tell a similar story. But Gillette’s number of domestic violence cases are higher than ever.
However, McWilliams was able to provide an explanation for the inconsistent data. She said that many domestic violence survivors do not report their cases to law enforcement, choosing instead to only reveal their experiences to organizations such as GARF.
And all too often, victims do not report incidents of domestic violence at all.
McWilliams said that there are several different reasons why victims of domestic violence do not report their spouse or significant other.
The biggest and most problematic, is that victims do not think others will believe them. Especially if their spouse or significant other is a well-liked member of the community.
“They think that people won’t believe they’re [abuser] is a different person behind closed doors,” McWilliams said.
On other occasions, the victim can be subjected to “gaslighting,” where the victim is coerced into believing that they are the ones in the wrong, not the abuser.
If a family is involved, a victim of abuse will sometimes avoid reporting their abuser to keep their families together.
McWilliams said that victims are more likely to be injured or abused when they are attempting to leave the abuser, in which case the victim begins to display reluctance to leave.
The best way to help victim of domestic violence is to simply be there for them. Should residents hear or see something that could be domestic abuse, McWilliams says the best way to approach the situation is to ask the victim “are you safe?” Let the victim know that there is help available and be a resource that they can turn to.
“Just be that person to listen,” McWilliams said.
Avoid victim blaming. McWilliams said that there is a lot of victim blaming placed on the survivors of domestic violence. Do not ask the victim what they did and in no way make it appear the victim did something wrong. McWilliams says to only offer assistance, so that the victim feels more comfortable.
“You want to be that caring voice,” she said.
For all victims of domestic abuse, it is important to understand that help is available just a phone call away. McWilliams said the best way to contact GARF is to use their crisis hotline, which is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
She said that GARF offers a variety of assistance to the victims of domestic abuse and will assist them in any way that they can.