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Domestic Violence Against Women and Children
Many years ago, I befriended a professor who taught business communication at the prestigious Long Island University. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that this self-reliant, well-educated, beautiful woman would be a victim of domestic violence. However, she is. As our friendship grew, she began to trust me and tell me about her horrible past. She stayed in that abusive marriage for over fourteen years. When her son was fourteen, she ended the marriage, in her words, for his sake. Fortunately for her, the timing was just right, as the husband had a girlfriend who was impregnated by him.
It’s not always easy. Most of the time, the abuser doesn’t want to let go, and women can’t leave even if they wanted to, or if they do, they face poverty, being stalked by an ex, or death.
Over the past few decades, domestic violence is being recognized as a social and medical problem due to increased awareness across the country. This led to the opening of shelters and nationwide education of caregivers and the public. Most states now require domestic violence courses to grant medical licensure.
Even with all the measures, experts still believe statistics on domestic violence are undercounted. In the United States, a woman is assaulted every fifteen seconds. 17% of pregnant women and 21% of pregnant teenage girls were beaten. The most important clue to abuse of women is child abuse. Children who grow up in violent homes are 74 percent more likely to commit crimes against others and 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Violence was the reason for divorce in 22 percent of marriages, and domestic violence was the leading cause of injury for women.
Statistically, domestic abusers are men, although sometimes the roles may be reversed. The abuser uses the threat of violence, or violence itself, to gain power, dominance, and control over a partner. These events are usually gradual. They may start with name-calling, demeaning, and making women lose confidence in themselves and their actions. They then escalated into shouting, shoving and beating. Added to all this was a wild, uncontrollable jealousy and an attempt to limit the woman’s access to family and friends or any help she could get. The victim is thus gradually and deliberately cut off from the outside world. Although some abusers may be helped by psychotherapy and behavior modification therapy, most abusers do not stay in treatment long enough.
Abusive and controlling tendencies can be identified even in dating relationships. These are “forgiven” because the victim “loves” the abuser. She may also mistakenly think that she can change this behavior after she gets married and has children. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Controlling behavior persists throughout the relationship, even after divorce. After divorce, many men continue this control by not paying court-ordered child care or alimony.
Although abuse is expressed in many different ways, there often seems to be a repetitive pattern or cycle of violence, with each incident escalating to a higher level.
The pattern loop is like this:
* The abuser apologized after each incident.
* Commitment to a rehabilitation attempt.
* The abuser blames the victim.
* After some thought, he denies, minimizes, or rationalizes his behavior.
* He brings gifts and is very charming for a moment.
* Soon both parties forgot about the incident.
* Abuse will not occur for a period of time.
* Tensions start to rise.
* The little incident that makes a big deal out of a molehill begins.
* Communication lost.
* Victims and families start to be very careful with the abuser. “Eggshell Syndrome”
* Explosive events begin and abuse—physical, sexual, or emotional—occurs.
Abusers may also exhibit behaviors representative of their personal dynamics, pointing to behaviors they observed when the abuser was a child, events in current or past relationships, or their assessment of what may be lost in each episode.
Abusers exist at all levels of society, in all age groups and socioeconomic classes. An abuser has some or all of the following characteristics:
* Limited tolerance for setbacks
* Jealousy, often extreme, with violent outbursts
* Ego issues – He (the man) is always right.
* Career disappointment – even if they appear successful to others
* No liability for misuse
*Cannot accept any blame for failure
* suffers from depression and they hide it very aptly
* Attempt to isolate spouse and children
* A history of abuse in childhood or in the family
* Increased abuse when partner is pregnant
* Make a commitment to change and make things better
* Believing that abusive behavior is necessary to control the home and children
* Over time, their abuse skills will “increase”
* Requesting unwanted sex from a partner, resulting in marital rape
* Controlling partner by threatening suicide or killing
Battered women suffer emotional, psychological, physical and financial problems. 90% of people don’t report it to their doctor and when asked about their scars they make up stories to cover up their abusive partners. In most cases, the victim is hiding because she has assessed the risk of her situation. If the abuser learns that violence has been revealed, she may fear reprisals for herself and her children. She may also feel shame and humiliation about what happened to her. She probably thinks she deserves to be abused for various reasons. She may feel that other people, her doctor, colleagues, etc. may be too busy. She may not be familiar with the help available in her community.
Like abusers, victims exist at all levels of society, in all age groups, and in all socioeconomic classes, and share certain characteristics:
* Fifty percent of people have experienced violence in the home they grew up in.
* They marry early to escape their families.
* They were often in another abusive relationship before
* They feel guilty for bothering others with their problems
* They feel responsible for the abuser’s actions
* They may be protecting someone other than themselves, usually their children.
* They will do whatever it takes to keep their abuser calm and not angry.
* They feel powerless and have no choice
* As the abuser controls her, the victim loses the ability to make decisions and seek change.
* They express anxiety about routine decisions in their daily lives, fearing negative reactions to any decisions they make.
* They have feelings of helplessness and isolation, especially created and reinforced by the abuser.
* Their self-esteem is low, which is again deliberately reinforced by the abuser.
* They suffer from health problems, depression, substance abuse and psychosomatic disorders.
* They don’t sleep well, mostly because they fear violence and safety for themselves and their children.
* They are always vigilant.
* They work very hard to create a safe home for their children because they accept responsibility for the abuser’s actions.
When anyone comes across someone like this and wants to help them, the message is given at the right time. The victim needs to know that she will be believed and heard, that she does not deserve to be treated this way, abuse is a common problem and she is not alone as help is available.
Battered Women’s Bill of Rights
* Right not to be abused
* The right to be angry about past assaults
* Right to choose to change status
* The right to be free from fear of abuse
* The right to request and expect assistance from the police and social agencies
* the right to share her feelings and not isolate herself from others
* The right to set a better example for children
* The right to be treated like adults
* The right to leave an abusive environment
* The right to express one’s own thoughts and feelings
* The right to develop personal talents and abilities
* The right to prosecute the abuser under the law
* Not perfect right
Child abuse and domestic violence often go hand in hand. The following symptoms in children should alert us to examine their condition more closely.
* Miscarriage due to beating or mother’s pressure
* Poor health due to lack of proper nutrition or maternal stress
* Crying and irritability
* sleep disorder
* Digestive problems
Toddlers and preschoolers:
* more aggressive or withdrawn than other children
* Cognitive impairment
* Motor or language delays
* Pervasive fear or anxiety
*Stomach pain and nightmares
* Lack of bladder and bowel control over the age of three
* Lack of confidence to start new tasks
* Poor grades and/or special courses
* Failed one or more grades
* Poor social skills
* Outburst of anger
* bedwetting or nightmares
* Digestive problems, headaches
* Poor grades, failure, dropping out
* Refuse to bring friends home, stay away or run away from home
* Have no or few friends, or stay away from them
* Feel responsible for caring for family and mother
* Violent outbreaks and destruction of property
* Poor judgment and irresponsible decision-making
* Can’t express feelings
* Bedwetting, nightmares
* Severe acne, headache
* Participated in beating mother
* Women beaten by boyfriends
*men hit their girlfriends
Advice if you are a victim
If you find yourself facing a violent incident:
* Get out of the abuser’s body if possible.
* Leaving home; find your escape items.
* Enter a room with a lock and a phone.
* Dial 911 or call your local battered women’s shelter.
* Let your kids call the police.
* Scream so loudly that your neighbors can hear and call the police.
* If you have to leave your child at home, please contact the police immediately.
* If you are driving away, lock your doors immediately and do not open them until you have reached your destination safely.
* Check yourself and your child for injuries and go to the hospital if necessary.
* If you can’t leave, try to protect yourself.
Items you may need for a comfortable and safe escape:
* Money: There is always something hidden. If you can’t keep it at home, keep it within easy reach, day or night. The plan has enough rent, phone, gas, food, etc.
* KEYS: Prepare extra keys for car and home. Keep one for you and keep the other somewhere other than your home, or give it to a friend for safekeeping.
* Extra Clothes: Consider the fact that you may have to flee in any season. Choose clothes accordingly.
* Important documents: Make a plan to access them quickly. At least there are copies.
1. Social Security Number – His, Yours, and Children’s
2. Birth certificate – yours and the child’s
3. Pay slips – his and yours
4. Bank account
5. Insurance Policy
6. Marriage certificate
7. Driver’s license – yours and his copy
8. Any property title documents
9. Copies of all monthly bills
10. Precious jewelry
· Important phone numbers:
1. Local police department or 911
2. Residence and another alternative residence
3. Victim assistance
4. Probation Officer
5. Social Services
6. Your counselor
7. His advisor
my personal notes
Salber and Taliaferro “A Physician’s Guide to Domestic Violence” Volcano Press 1995
June Sheehan Berlinger, RN “Domestic Violence”
Jacobson, Neil & Gottman “When Men Beat Women: Insights for Ending Abusive Relationships” Simon & Schuster 1988
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