Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of guest articles from community experts on domestic abuse, in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This article may contain information that is emotionally difficult and/or upsetting for some readers. Readers are encouraged to care for their safety and well being in ways that make sense for them and to reach out for support if needed.

To speak to an advocate who can assist you with safety and support, please call The Women’s Community 24/7/365 at 715-842-7323 or toll free at 988-665-1234.  If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact your local medical provider as soon as possible.

By: Sarah Bedish | Wausau Police Department

10-8 is the code officers use to notify dispatch and other officers they are clear from a call for service and available to take another. It implies that the officer has completed their previous task and can focus on the next one. And the next one. And the next one.

10-8 implies closure. Out of sight, out of mind.

For a Domestic Violence case, there is no 10-8.  An officer may clear from the scene, but the images of the scene, the scared children, the broken down victim, the injuries, the fear… those images don’t leave.  There is still work to be done.  Find the suspect. Interview suspect and hear all the details again. Write the report. Do the follow up. Refer the victim and children to services and support teams. Follow up with victim and children again.  Photograph the injury progression.  Go to court. Check in with the victim, encourage them to continue seeking services.  Safety plan with them.  Go home and hug their own families and children…but still wonder if the victim and their children are safe.  Repeat.

There is no 10-8 from a domestic violence incident.

For a domestic violence victim, there is no 10-8.  The officer may have left the scene, but the trauma and shock sets in.  The memories of the chaos, the fear, the yelling and screaming, the pain…they linger.  The what ifs sink in… what if she didn’t call the police?  What if she just did what she was told? What if the police can’t find him and he comes back? What if he calls and says he’s sorry? Life moves on.  Clean the house. Go grocery shopping, get the kids to school.  Go to work. Run errands.  Put a smile on, pretend everything is normal.  Wear long sleeves.  Wear extra makeup. Pay the bills. Call the officer back.  Call the DA back.  Try to find daycare. Call the counselor.  Call the in-laws. Reschedule that appointment.  Try to sleep. Repeat

For a child of domestic violence, there is no 10-8.  The nice police officer just left the house.  But mom is still sad and upset, and really mad. I think she has an owie on her face, but she says she’s okay. It’s really late and the loud sounds woke me up.  Dad isn’t home and mom is locking the door? How will daddy get back in? What if he breaks the door down? That will be scary.  Mom says I can’t tell my friends or my teachers… I have to pretend to be happy.  I’m really tired and anxious, I wish I could just stay at grandma’s house. Is it my fault daddy is mad?  Maybe if I listen and clean my room like he asks, he won’t get mad at mom anymore.  I like being at school, everyone is really nice there and I get to play.  I wish I could stay at school all day long.  Maybe my mom can stay at school too.  I love my mom and dad.  Repeat.

We often talk about the ripple effects of traumatic events.  How one ripple creates another ripple and then another.  With each new ripple, another ripple is affected, and so on.  Most images of a ripple implies that eventually the ripples disappear, and the waters are calm again.  For domestic violence incidents, the ripples remain.  Some stay very minor and almost invisible, while others create new ripples and eventually turn into waves.  

The trauma doesn’t end with the officer catching the “bad guy”.  It doesn’t end with the victim finding services and support.  It doesn’t end with the child going to school the following morning.  The ripples continue… the officer carries the weight of hoping they got there soon enough and praying they saved the day, leading the family to safety… only knowing in the back of their mind, they will more than likely have to it over and over again.  The victim may be in a safe space, but has the mountain of recovery in front of them.  Staying strong for themselves and their children, maintaining their day to day as if nothing happened.  Struggling with letting the abuser come back home or standing their ground and breaking all contact.  Dealing with the inward and outward stigma of being labeled a “domestic violence victim.”  The child, the most innocent of all, carries the weight of confusion. The unknown.  Fear.  They may look like a happy, loving child, but inside they are sad and miss their parent.  They don’t know how to express these emotions and start to act out or become a shell of the child they once were.

The ripples continue.  For the officer, the ripples may affect how we respond to domestic violence cases, how we maintain our own mental health or our relationships with loved ones.  The ripples from the victim’s experience may cause negative relationships with loved ones and their employer.  The children may continue to spiral downward in school, get lost in depression and behavioral issues.  The negativity and sadness continue onward.

We cannot stop the ripple effects of Domestic Violence.  But we can change the feel of those ripples.  We can saturate the ripples in positivity, light, support and care. Like ripples, we keep showing up for the victims and their families, we keep moving forward, guiding them to safety.  The stronger and more resilient we are, the stronger and more positive our impact will be for them.  As law enforcement and other community partners, dedicated to keeping domestic violence victims and their families safe, we are never fully 10-8. 

Officer Sarah Bedish is the Victim Resource Officer for Wausau Police Department and is a member of the Marathon County Domestic Abuse Intervention Team, a coordinated community effort of local service providers to address victim safety, offender accountability, and community awareness.