Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Seeing is not always believing: The Black Eye Campaign

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Posey
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- What would you do if you saw someone you knew with a large black eye? What if it was a stranger? Would you ask them if they were alright, where the bruise came from, or not ask them anything at all?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Family Advocacy team planned a secret event to raise awareness. They called it the Black Eye Campaign.

The campaign painted black eyes on volunteers. Then, they went about their day as normal as a test to see who would ask about the bruises. If prompted about the bruise, the volunteers gave out a fact card which read, "Thanks for asking..."

Capt. Reed Reichwald, 1st Special Operations Medical Group Family Advocacy chief led the even event which was planned to bring attention to Family Advocacy's mission -- to prevent or reduce the incidents of maltreatment on base.

"Unfortunately not all signs of domestic violence are as glaring as a black eye," Reichwald said. "It is on us to be vigilant when we see lesser signs or other indicators of domestic violence."

Reichwald said he was concerned with the reasons why Airmen do not react.

"We don't go out of our way to say something," he said. "Perhaps we're embarrassed and we're concerned we might embarrass someone else or that it's not our business."

Two volunteers were chosen to play battered women for the campaign.

First Lt. Erika Washington, 1st Special Operations Medical Group Mental Health social worker, is new to the medical group, so people do not know her relationship status, history or background. She traveled to various locations all day while in-processing with a black-eye.

Senior Airman Skye Escalera, 1st Special Operations Medical Group health benefits advisor, worked in the medical center with co-workers and clients all day with a black-eye.

Throughout the day, Washington and Escalera ran into many people.

"The only people who actually came up to me were the people I worked closely with," Escalera said. "But a lot of people in the clinic would walk by me and just keep going, trying not to make eye contact. For some people, it was like I had this infectious disease, it was really weird."

However, some people did ask.

"A lot of people came in my office wanting to beat my husband up," she said. "Some of my close co-workers were really concerned and got generally upset about my face. I also went to the child development center and everybody there was automatically like, 'Are you ok?'"

Washington said her experience was completely different.

"It was very interesting because yes they knew something was wrong," she said. "I could tell that they were very uncomfortable."

Washington said she walked outside and looked people straight in the eye.

"They would clearly see me, pause but say nothing and I could tell they were looking back after," she said. "The guy at the finance counter kept asking me about finance issues. He didn't want me to go. He was very nervous, dropping pens and looking at my eye. I wanted him to ask but he never did. I was disappointed."

Washington said two people asked about her black eye.

"One was early in the morning when I was walking down the stairs," she said. "A captain saw me and quickly touched my arm and asked if I was ok. It made me feel good. It was very nourishing just to hear it."

The second one happened later in the day, Washington said.

"When I went to readiness, I got a response from someone I had talked with last week who asked me right away if everything was ok," she said.

After the event, people said why they did or did not ask about the bruises.

Garren Medeiros, 1st Special Operations Medical Group medical records clerk, was one who asked about the black eye.

"Escalera works in my duty section and as I was walking passed her office I noticed she had a black eye," he said. "I immediately felt compelled to ask her what happened and if she was okay. We are co-workers and I was just simply concerned about her wellbeing. I did not jump to any conclusion as to what had happened to her; I simply wanted to know if she was alright."

However, Senior Airman Naomi Griego, 1st Special Operations Wing photojournalist, did not ask.

"I guess I was reluctant to ask about what had happened just given the environment where we were at," she said. "We were in a public place and there were other people around, other women. If it was something of a domestic dispute, I didn't want to put her in an uncomfortable position or bring something up that wasn't for public information."

As the Black Eye Campaign came to an end, Reichwald said the medical group learned from the experience.

"We got a lot of the result we anticipated," he said. "We fully expected that lots of folks would not say anything."

Because of the cultural differences between the volunteers, there were different insights as to why people did not report, according to Reichwald.

"Seeing is not always believing," he said. "I think when something like a black eye is in your face and you don't know what to do with that information, you almost un-see it. It doesn't fit with what you want to believe so you un-see it or you rationalize it. [You think] it's not your responsibility or someone else is going to deal with it."

Reichwald said he urges everyone to report incidents like this.

"Report it to a supervisor or a first sergeant within your unit," he said. "If you can talk to the person and learn there is violence going on, you can refer them to family advocacy."

For more information about domestic violence, call family advocacy at (850) 881-5061.


Anonymous said...

One of my neighbors had had a yellowed looking eye and when I had asked her she had said a dog toy had hit her in the eye. I was doubtful but accepted that.
About two weeks later, I heard a knock on the door and when I answered and saw her face my knees turned to jelly. I asked her what happened and she said her husband had hit her and knocked her down and then kicked her in the face. I immediately made her come in the house, as I was afraid he might come over after her. She did not have a phone so I had her use mine to call the police. She had merely told them she needed police so I told them I thought she needed EMS as well.
They came and took her to the hospital and when she was released that evening I got another neighbor to go get her and had her stay at my house. The landlord told her she could stay if she would file a restraining order against him but she chose to go back to him so they were evicted.
I cannot understand why any woman would go back to anyone who would beat them like that. And when I had later questioned her about the prior black eye she admitted he had given her that as well.
They ended up moving and I don't know what will become of either of them, but I did do what I could, as best I could. I am 66 years old and pretty well crippled myself and was aware when I took her in that he could kick in my door at any time and harm or kill both of us. You have to do what your conscience will allow you to live with so I did what I could to help her. I have no idea why she went back with him. The police told me they had begged her to let them take her to a battered women's shelter and asked me to call them if I saw or heard anything. If you have victims who refuse help there is not a whole lot you can do but pray for them.

gena t said...

I wrote the above comment. She is not the first woman neighbor I have dealt with over the years who had spousal abuse and refused to get help.
I had met a woman in my neighborhood previous to the one I spoke of above, which happened just about 3 months ago. This woman had a husband who had not only knocked her around but had once thrown her down a flight of stairs. I repeated told her that nothing she could have done justified him beating her like that, and she would say she must have said something that made him angry.
I found battered women shelters willing to take her and their children, she refused to go.
I was so scared he would eventually kill her or cripple her but was unable to get her to accept the ample help that was available in San Antonio.
I'll be honest, I do not know what you can do when people refuse to accept the help that is available and who justify to themselves that their spouse had grounds to beat the crap out of them. It has been, to me, like beating your head into a brick wall - I am at a loss on what more I can do with people with such low self esteem that they would allow themselves to be treated that way.