This subject is never a pleasant one. No one likes to acknowledge domestic abuse is a way of life…especially if it is happening within their own life. Unfortunately, domestic abuse happens every day in a multitude of ways. It doesn’t just happen in the lives of the poor, the rich, or the celebrity world; even though, that is often the stories that we hear about…those who are famous. We must awaken to the facts of domestic abuse; it is often learned behaviors that are used to control another person…either with intimidation, physical violence, emotional abuse or sexual abuse.
Domestic abuse is like cancer…it is constantly trying to destroy the people involved. It is a pattern of behavior that affect both the abuser and the person being abused. Many who are being abused do not recognize that what is happening in their lives is actually domestic abuse. The reasons for their lack of understanding, or denial are many.
It may be that their self-esteem has been worn down by the abuser or others in their life; before their relationship with the person doing the abusing. It may be embarassment of their situation; it could be fear of what happens next; if they admit that they are being abused. It could simply be, that they do not understand that the things that are hurting them or making them feel badly about themselves, is abuse. Another part of the equasion is that often those who are suffering domestic abuse are dependent either emotionally, physically, or financially on the person who is abusing them. They may feel trapped or feel that they dont deserve any better treatment in their lives.
Getting help for those who are in a domestic abuse situation is not always simple. There is often danger involved for the person being abused, or that person’s children or loved ones. Sometimes, there is a lack of education or an inability to financially support themselves. There are many organizations that are willing to help…but, even just reaching out to the victims of domestic abuse can be difficult or dangerous.
You see, something as simple as what i did today, to write this blog post on domestic abuse, can get someone hurt. I did a little research on my personal computer. Computer histories can be checked by an abuser…leaving the person on the receiving end of the abuse in danger of more violence. Often times, those who are suffering are isolated from their friends and family.
That isolation is no accident. This is done so that the person being abused has to depend on the abuser; also, so that they do not have anywhere else to turn when they are in need. They are not left alone very much. There is not much opportunity to share with others that they are in trouble. Shame is a big part of what happens because they are sometimes warned that they won’t be believed; that they deserve what happens to them because of something that they did or did not do to the abusers way of thinking. Control issues are really at the core of the relationship…the abuser must feel in control of the relationship; because, when they feel threatened, that is when the violence escalates.
Many times without meaning to enable the abuser who abuses them…the victim will cover for them or make excuses about visible injuries. An abuser will blame the victim, or apologize profusely in the beginning…until the patterns of abuse increase in frequency or intensity. The beatings, the verbal abuse, the sexual abuse, the strict controls of freedom get worse with each incident that they “get away” with. Ending an unhealthy relationship with an abuser is often when the person being abused (or those they care about) are in the most danger. That is because the person doing the abusing feels like things are getting out of his/her control. This is an important thing to remember…there must be a safety plan in place if and when someone is ready to leave a dangerous relationship. This involves consulting with the police, shelters, counselors, friends and family.
The nature of these relationships is sometimes rooted in denial…the person promises to get help to get the person back into the relationship and the patterns of abusive behaviors begin all over again; only they are often more intense. Children who are raised in the midst of these relationships will probably struggle to have healthy relationships themselves as they grow up. The cycle continues to affect the next generation until in some families…it becomes normal or acceptable.
These are all reasons why we must start with our children; we must teach them about domestic abuse and how to recognize it; and, how to avoid it. Early on in the dating years, there must be open communication between parent and child about what to watch out for. They must feel safe in dating relationships; and, feel comfortable enough with their parents to confide if something doesn’t feel right with the person that they are dating. Don’t allow unhealthy relationships to continue without seeking help or intervention by experienced professionals.
Abuse starts in secret, it grows in secret and it kills & destroys in secrecy; if the patterns of abuse are not understood, confronted, treated with counseling and by changing behaviors of triggers and responses. Recognizing the seeds of domestic abuse in an early relationship can very well save the life of someone you love. Breaking the cycle of abuse can be done…but it will require many things such as honesty, help, education, counseling and compassion.
Stress caused by financial difficulties, drug/alcohol use and abuse, job loss, previous issues with abuse/violence, low self-esteem issues, controlling behaviors, emotional, physical, or financial dependency that is out of balance can all contribute to situations of domestic abuse.
Some people will say…why should I care…domestic abuse doesn’t affect me…I will say to that person you are wrong. It affects us all. How many people in prison are there, because of domestic violence or it’s aftermath; your tax dollars pay for that. How many children of domestic abuse end up in foster care; your tax dollars pay for that. What if your sibling, parent or child enters into an abusive relationship; or your grandchildren are born into it? Does this not affect you?
You may or may not have an up-close-and-personal experience with domestic abuse…however, you may have a friend, a child, a parent, a neighbor…a teacher of your child….maybe the bus driver that drives you across town may be affected by domestic abuse; these situations spill over often onto innocent by-standers. Sometimes the victim will protect the abuser out of a mis-guided sense of loyalty, love, respect or trust; to keep them from getting into trouble; the problem is…protecting them from consequences also keeps them from getting help!
How would you react in a situation where things get out of control around you? Would you know what to do if someone confided in you that they were experiencing domestic abuse? What if the violence, emotional cruelty/verbal abuse took place in your presence…would you know how to react appropriately? What if domestic abuse is happening to someone you care about? We must awaken to the many ways that domestic abuse affects us all; and learn how to be a part of the solution! What can you do to be a part of the solution?
Want to learn more? See: http://www.ndvh.org/get-educated/what-is-domestic-violence/ or http://www.nicolebrown.org/index.html or check out your local shelters for victims of domestic abuse to see how you can help by donating your time, old cell phones, your skills, money or by helping to educate others to the dangers of domestic abuse!