by Sam Sentelle
Posted on October 10, 2017
Domestic abuse is not private; it’s a community problem
Cpl. A.J. “Tony” Craigo
October 10, 2017
October 10, 2017
“Domestic violence is not a private matter,” Cpl. Tony Craigo told Putnam Rotary today. “It affects everybody in the community. It effects businesses, it affects churches. It’s important to know that we all play a part in this.
“Ultimately it boils down to one person trying to force another person to do what they want them to do.
“We may have a difference of opinion, but when I physically, or emotionally, or psychologically start forcing you to believe what I do, I’m going ‘way and beyond what’s legal.
“Mental and emotional abuse are a part of controlling another person. When we talk to teenagers about dating violence we often use the example — If I tell you something every day, that you’re fat, that you can’t get anybody better than me, you begin to believe it.
“And that’s another problem because a lot of times the [victim] will begin to believe they are the problem. ‘If I could fix me, then I’ll no longer be abused.’
“A lot of people call us for help: You’ve all heard the stories: They’re going to court. They’re going to lie. They’re not going to show up for the hearings.
“A lot of times, all they want is for the abuse to stop. They don’t want three months of repercussions, of courts, of separation, and, ‘How are we going to take care of the kids?’
“A lot of your domestic violence cases involve drugs. The person is actually looking for their next high.
“A lot of these things happen in [domestic violence] cases because of the unique dynamics. In most crimes, you don’t have an intimate tie. You don’t live with this person.
“For so many years it was considered private. It’s personal. None of my business. Keep it over there. It’s behind closed doors.
“But what we’re finding out is that those people who utilize this type of behavior, they’re dangerous to your school. They’re dangerous to our neighbors. They’re dangerous to us as law enforcement.
“Children are drawn into the violence by what they see, what they hear. I’ve heard abusive guys claim, ‘I don’t fight in front of my kids. We go outside every time we fight.’
“So the kids know every time mom and dad go outside, they’re getting ready to fight.
“Children understand a lot more than we give them credit for. They’re like a sponge, taking in the tension, taking in the violence.
“[One man] instead of physically abusing his wife he punched a hole in the wall. And his three-year-old child would go and point to the hole in the wall and say, ‘Daddy did that.’
“One time, there was an audio recording of the domestic event. The man was going into a rant about the house not being clean enough. And he’s screaming at the top of his lungs.
“When the recording started a child came running in immediately with the lip quivering. And this was something that child lived through every day..
“For me responding there as law enforcement, I’m not necessarily going to hear that. You know, abusive people can be very charismatic, very charming.
“That’s the danger of an abusive person, and there are certain things that I will never see on these calls.
“And you all run into the same thing,” said Craigo. “In business, out in the community, you hear and you think, man, I never would have dreamed that would ever happen.
“That’s why we have to hold people accountable,” he continued. “We’ve got to hold people accountable for how they treat other people in their lives.”
Resources are available, Craigo told his audience. “A lot of times, we are the ones making the contact, but there are other agencies there to help with services. For counseling. For support. For safety planning. For housing. Even to helping to create a resumé to get a job and get out on their own. Any way we can get them in touch to help.
“Maybe it’s not a crime,and maybe I can’t arrest somebody for it right now, but if I can get them in touch with those local resources, then maybe it will stop before somebody gets hurt down the road.
“If that doesn’t work, then it progresses to physical abuse. Victims resist and they get used to the abuse.
Breaking that cycle is very hard. They want to renew the relationship. And, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I was drunk. I was high. I’ll get on my medication again.'”
Cpl. Craigo was invited to talk to the Marshall football team. “I do credit some of their success this year to my speech,” he joked.
“When Coach Holliday got up to introduce us — myself and an advocate from the local shelter — he said, ‘Gentlemen, this is the most important thing you’ll hear while you’re here.,’ because he believes there is that much of an impact in how we treat other people around us. How we work in our communities. How we hold each other accountable for our behaviors.
“Can you go alongside of a friend whom you se spiraling out of control and say, ‘Hey, Man! We gotta turn it around here. This isn’t good.’ Or come alongside somebody who is a victim of abuse and say, ‘We care about you. We care for your family. Is there anything we can do to help?'”
Cpl. Craigo is Domestic Violence Investigator for the Putnam Sheriff’s Department. A 16-year veteran of the department, he has been recognized for distinguished service for crime victims by the the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.