Domestic Violence: A Community Issue

  • Published
  • By Beth Marks LCSW
  • Family Advocacy Outreach Manager
It is the time of year again where the weather gets a little cooler; our attention turns toward sports and fall festivals. Families focus on Halloween, school plays and cozy nights by the fire. But, October also marks a more somber time of the year: Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is when we recognize those in our community who are living with, have escaped from, or have lost their lives of domestic violence.

During the past year we have seen domestic violence-related murders both in our community and throughout the country. As we mourn for these individuals, and the family members left behind, Family Advocacy and our community partners seek to find ways to prevent domestic violence. We as a community need to take a stand against domestic violence, an epidemic that affects thousands across our state and country.

Chances are that you know or have known someone in a violent relationship, or you suspect violence may be imminent. Chances are that you were unsure of what to say or how to help. This month offers you the opportunity to become more aware of domestic violence as we educate the community on recognizing signs and symptoms of relationship violence.

What is domestic violence? Domestic Violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors. The intent of these behaviors is for the batterer to establish power and control over their partner and is more than an isolated incident. Domestic violence can be emotional, sexual, psychological, financial, or physical.

While it is imperative that we strive to assist those who are living in violent relationships, we must also focus on prevention efforts. Children living in violent homes grow up learning that violence is an effective method of conflict resolution. In addition, research shows that a child's exposure to the father abusing the mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. Family Advocacy focuses its prevention efforts on individual, family, and community levels in order to eliminate relationship violence.

So, what are the signs that you, as a community member and wingman, can look for?

Is one partner:
· Getting too serious too quickly
· Possessive or jealous
· Pressuring the other for intimacy
· Refusing to accept a break up
· Extremely charming initially: "Prince Charming"
· Emotionally battering their partner through put downs and name calling
· Controlling
· Has unreal expectations of the relationship
· Keeping tabs on the other partner's schedule or isolating them from their friends

Does the other partner:
· Cry often because of the relationship
· Apologize all the time
· Walk on eggshells around their partner
· Not express opinions or feelings in the presence of their partner
· Give up friends, hobbies, etc. for the relationship
· Find excuses not to leave the house
· Hear warnings from others regarding their partner's behavior

If you see or experience any of these things, what can you do?
· Just by asking your friend or family member what is happening, you are helping
· Educate your friend about how to leave the relationship safely
· Stick by your friend and remember that this can be a slow, long and painful process
· Let her know that you are there to support her- not save her
· Call a domestic violence hotline
· Educate yourself about abuse
· If you are under age, talk to a trusted adult
· Call Family Advocacy
· Break the silence! Do not keep abusive or violent behavior a secret

Domestic Violence does not discriminate based on age, religion, race or socioeconomic status. Victims often do not disclose the abuse to friends or relatives due to the stigma attached. These individuals may suffer alone and could be your neighbor, your family member, your co-worker, or friend. That is why it is so important to recognize the signs and ask questions if you are concerned that someone you know might be in a domestic violence situation.

You can help increase awareness of domestic violence. It is not a private problem; it is a public one that requires involvement from our community. You can help us take the steps to prevent family violence. Our children and our community depend on it.

If you are currently involved in a domestic violence relationship or know someone who is, please contact the Family Advocacy Program at 883-8616 or Shelter House, Inc.'s 24-hour hotline at (800) 44-ABUSE.