Saturday, October 20, 2007

Domestic Violence

Currently, there are about 500 open cases through our county's District Attorney office. In 2006, the local agency, that assists and supports victims of violence, served a total of 3307 clients. The Domestic Abuse Program specifically helped 2368 women, 147 children, and 209 men. The staff took 13,000 crisis calls and had 222 residents in shelter. Over the last year there were three domestic violence related homicides in this county.

Nationally, every 3 minutes a woman is murdered by an intimate partner. Battering is the leading cause of injury to women 15-44. Women are statistically safer on the street than their own homes. 3-4 million women are abused every year in the US.

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What does this say about our society? Why do we continue to wonder why women just don't leave? Why do people turn their backs to this violence? Why isn't the outcry loud and unforgiving? Why do some men continue to believe they can treat their partners and children with so horribly? It must stop. There is no excuse for abuse.

Why do women stay in an abusive situation?
Number one, Fear. The retalitaion from the abuse can be horrible. Rather than put their life or their children's lives at risk, they stay. Another reason is Isolation. Most abusers isolate their partner from friends & family so they have no one to turn to for help. Thus, the woman stays. Quite often, the abuser is the primary money maker, leaving the victim without a means of financial dependence. When you have no money to escape, the only option is to stay. Many times, a victim of abuse knows that showing signs that they may leave will trigger an attack by the abuser.
If the victim was raised in an abusive environment, they are more likely to stay than someone who wasn't. They learn that violence is a means of resolution in general.

What can I do?
Be supportive. Listen and don't judge. Help your loved one get help from agencies/services that can offer assistance. Remember that the the survivor did not cause this to happen, place the blame and anger where it belongs...on the abuser. Remember that your loved one is a "person" who has been abused; they are not damaged, but given the opportunity can thrive and be independent. Please do not tell the survivor what & what not to do. Decisions to report, etc are solely theirs. Do not tell anyone else about the abuse unless they tell you it's okay. Don't ask for specific details, they may not be ready to share.

The abuser
Don't not believe that the abuser simply lost control and did not realize what they were doing. Why are the bruises and other signs of abuse in less noticeable places, such as the stomach or the lower back? If losing control were the issue, there would be more DV related homicides if he was unaware of his actions.

Male victims
Yes, there are women out there who abuse their male partners. It does happen. Think of how difficult it is for a woman to leave the abusive relationship. And now think of a man in an abusive relationship. Many laugh at the idea of a man being abused by a woman, so what is he supposed to do? Fear of ridicule from others is powerful. Just because the overwhelming majority of abuse victims are female, does not mean that some males do not suffer as well.

If you are a victim of abuse, know that you are not alone. There are people there to help you.