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Dealing with domestic violence difficult on many levels [Editorial]

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an unrelated tradition was begun in Harford County.

In October of that year, red silhouettes representing victims of deadly domestic violence were put in place on the grounds of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County along Route 22 in Churchville.

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The life-size wooden likenesses have been put up every October – recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month – since then as part of an annual observance known as Silent Witness.

Initially, there were 10. This year, when the display was put in its high profile location, there were 15 silhouettes.

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A harsh reality about domestic violence is that it is both common, and difficult to deal with, at least from a public policy standpoint. It generally doesn't occur in public places, and all too often actions, or inactions, on the part of victims serve to enable the perpetrators of domestic violence.

In more recent years, police have had more latitude in dealing with calls they suspect involve domestic violence. Time was an officer responding to a call for service could take no action without actually seeing a blow being struck. Now, officers are obliged to take action, if there is evidence, such as bleeding or bruising, of an attack.

It's an advance, but it's hardly a solution to the problem of domestic violence, deadly or otherwise.

Since 2001, various public policy efforts have sought to increase the role of the general public when it comes to dealing with threats of terrorism, and one that is of high profile these days carries the advice: "If you see something, say something." In other words, if something seems out of the ordinary in a public setting, report it to the proper authorities.

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From a certain perspective, such advice is also appropriate in taking on the issue of domestic violence.

People in abusive situations too often are keen to keep those situations private, but friends and family members can often notice when something is amiss.

A true misunderstanding may result in a bit of embarrassment, but the result of failing to report something that ends up turning deadly would be far more painful to endure.

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