Local victims’ advocate says victims often take the fall for abuser’s illegal behavior

South Dakota advocate says victims often take the fall for abuser’s illegal behavior
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 9:49 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -There are times when life comes full circle. Holly Waiter is one of those examples. As a former victim of violence, she is now a victim’s advocate. Many of those she helps have multiple layers of problems that surround their abuser when they decide to get out.

“Victims are not only leaving domestic situations; they’re also hitting rock bottom with drugs or alcohol, trying to get help,” said Wethor.

While under pressure, the victims may even do illegal things to keep the peace.

“And you can also get in trouble with your abuser just by guilty of association,” said Wethor.

One of those who kept silent while facing charges for her part in a crime was Harley Matthews.

“It was really hard to maintain fighting for my kids and fighting for my sobriety with hiding the domestic violence and protecting him, which is how it went,” said Matthews.

She was facing serious jail time.

“I faced 15 to 25 years, and I caught new charges and charges for him that he should have got” said Matthews.

Scott Miller, Executive Director for Domestic Abuse of Intervention Programs in Duluth, MN, is called to testify in criminal cases when a crime includes domestic abuse.

“The biggest thing I testify about is why would a survivor make that decision. Why wouldn’t she tell the truth on the witness stand? Why would she wait to call the police? Why would she talk to him after she’s written in order for protection?” said Miller. “All of these things that she’s doing have to be looked at through the lens of the fear that she’s experiencing.”

Miller and his associates are now known worldwide for the “Duluth Model,” also known as the Power and Control Wheel, a visual that brings clarity to understanding abuse.

power and control wheel
power and control wheel(Dakota news now)

“So the wheel really is a way of having a window into that experience that she’s having, and it will also a window into what he does to establish this power and control over her,” said Miller.

Because Matthews was connected to a victim’s advocate and had access to help through Marcy’s law, she found her voice, told her attorney about the abuse, and got another chance from the judge.

“I got drug court and moved three counties away,” said Matthews. “I’ve been able to fight for my kids and get back on track and then be seven months sober today.”

For those still trapped in violence, it’s not too late.

“There’s nothing that you own. There’s nothing that you could lose that is worth staying in that situation,” said Matthews.

Having a victim’s advocate and Marsy’s law to enable victim assistance can make a difference.

“You do get to be heard. You get to be a part of the plea deals. You get to be a part of the whole process. And I think that’s what really helps people on a mental level is if they do know about this, it helps them also heal in the process because that’s what it did for me. It healed me in the process,” said Wethor.

Wether says victims of abuse report taking the fall for their abusers in situations by lying for them, selling drugs, tax evasion, and other conditions that they usually wouldn’t do on their own.