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Domestic Violence Victims: How to Get Help

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The Mel Gibson tapes are a harsh reminder of the fact that women are abused every day by the men who claim to love them most.

Mel_Gibson Oksana Grigorieva

Judge Jeanine Pirro, of the syndicated television show "Judge Pirro," tells momlogic: "Based upon what we know so far, there is sufficient evidence to go forward with criminal charges. There's a victim, evidence of injury, immediate outcry to friends and corroboration from Mel Gibson himself. Now the D.A. will decide if he wants to go forward with charges. Gibson could be charged with child endangerment (for hitting ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva while she was holding the baby) or felony domestic violence. Gibson has shown himself to be anti-Semitic, misogynistic, racist and homophobic. The reality is that it appears he has committed several crimes for which he can be charged and sent to jail."

Judge Pirro says that a woman who finds herself in a situation where she is being physically, emotionally or verbally abused should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 immediately. "Their lines are open 24/7, they operate in 170 languages through interpreter services and they can refer you to local resources in your community and help you develop a safety plan and an exit plan," she says. "Every call is anonymous and confidential."

Judge Pirro is an active member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline Celebrity Board, along with Salma Hayek and Martina McBride. "I was recently in Austin, Texas, at the NDVH headquarters," Judge Pirro says. "I started the first domestic violence unit in the nation thirty years ago, and let me tell you: The people at this hotline are experts. They're all about empowering women in violent relationships to extricate themselves from these dangerous situations. They offer lifesaving intervention and support, and they're an amazing group of people."

But what if women in domestic violence situations are too scared to leave? "Women have to recognize that it's scarier to NOT leave," Judge Pirro says. "Leaving is a very dangerous time -- men often become infuriated because their 'property,' as they see it, is leaving. But I've prosecuted many domestic violence homicide cases -- and staying is much more dangerous. The violence escalates, and the woman is so battered that she believes she is worthless. Women need to make that one phone call. An expert can help her come up with a real exit strategy and open doors that she couldn't open on her own."

According to Judge Pirro, victims must recognize that the last beating is not the last beating -- there's an increase in intensity as time goes on. "If he hits you once, he'll hit you again -- and the next time will be worse than the last time," Judge Pirro warns. "The most important thing to do is reach out for help."

Judge Pirro says that there are many survivors like Oksana out there. "It's about recognizing that you're worthwile, you're valuable and that he's wrong," she says. "These men who hit women are cowards. It's about power and control -- what they want to do is completely control a woman. Mel Gibson is a classic batterer: On the tape, he said, 'You deserved it.' Assuming that it's his voice, this is a man who is not only admitting to the crime, but is also saying that Oksana is responsible for her own victimization. He is the lowest of the low, and he belongs in jail. If what we are hearing is true, this man is an out-of-control menace to society, and he is a danger."

You can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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