Domestic Violence; The Hidden Secret

There is a hidden secret in homes all across America that most people chose to ignore. This is my place to share my thoughts, views and occassional rants about the issue of domestic violence. It is my hope that this blog will prove to be an educational tool that will shatter the myths and misconceptions surrounding the issue, raise awareness and motivate all members of society to take a stand against violence against women.

Location: New York, United States

Monday, July 17, 2006

So Why Stay?

So many people ask time and time again, "if she's being abused, why does she stay?" There are so many reasons why someone might stay in the situation and unless someone's been in the situation, they will have a hard time understanding these reasons.

First of all, in order to understand the reasons why someone might stay, we must understand the dynamics of the relationship and the things that go on way before the victim might even begin to contemplate leaving. Abusive relationships start out just as any other relationship does. Most people think they'd get out at the first sign of abuse. Well, it isn't that easy. The behavior occurs slowly and is extremely calculated. I mean lets' talk turkey here... if you went out on your first date and your date hauled off and punched you in the face, what are the chances of date number two taking place? Slim and none and slim just left town in the words of an old boss of mine.

Domestic violence is a pattern of cohersive behavior based on power and control. Mainly the abusive partner exerting power and control over their partner. This starts out slowly and may be perceived as an over protective or jealous partner. Frequently, the abuser will start to isolate the victim from their friends and family. This can happen slowly by the abuser finding fault with these people and slowly cutting off contact. They can be extremely charming and appear to want to take care of their partner and convince them to stop working so they can take care of them. Now, trust me, I'd love to stop working as much as the next person and can see how this can be a nice proposition especially if you have children to care for at home. However, the abuser does this in order to gain power and control over their partner. Take away their support systems such as friends/family, access to financial resources; the less likely they are to leave the relationship.

In the meantime there's the subtle comments, put downs and insults. Slowly chipping away at the victims self confidence. It's not uncommon for them to play mind games with the victim by doing childish things such as hiding car keys, clothing ,etc then trying to convince the victim they didn't do anything. Yeah, good idea buddy, make her think she's crazy. Very, very manipulative these abusers are.

Then one day comes the first incident of physical violence. Most times the first incident will not be to extreme. This is not to say that it's okay, just stating that it won't be all that brutal. A kick, a shove, something of that nature. Then the I'm sorry's come combined with blaming the victim for his behavior "had you not been on the phone w/your sister, I wouldn't have hit you" type of thing. Oh, lets not forget the endless promises of never doing this again.

Things settle down for a while and then will begin to escalate again. The victim will notice and increase in tension in the home and will try their hardest to keep the abuser calm. Sadly, there isn't anything they can do to stop this behavior as they are not the cause of it. Then another incident will happen, followed by the apologies and promises. Now, imagine yourself in a commited relationship with someone you love and claims to love you. Not easy to wrap your mind around the fact that this person is willingly harming you, is it? You'd want to try and believe that they'll stop. In addition to this, you've now spent x amount of time being belittled and are now starting to believe that you are stupid, worthless, crazy and all the other things your abuser has told you about yourself.

Lets add in threats to harm or kill you, take your children away from you and quite possibly harm or kill your family if you leave. Add this to you not having any access to financial resources whether you're employed or not. If you're employed, your partner takes all of your money and only gives you an "allowance" for what they see fit. They are the sole means of financial support for your children. What do you do? You've been out of work for years now and don't even have a car of your own to use if you do leave. You don't have any money to speak of so where are you going to go? Oh yes, and lets not forget the very real threats of physical harm or death to you and your family if you leave. Do you have an easy answer? How quickly can you now say you'd be out of there in a heartbeat? I defy you to say you wouldn't think twice about it.

My fiance once asked me why these women stay, it makes no sense to him. How can one person be so afraid of their partner? Well, I've given you the domestic violence "light" version above. The brutal beatings and emotional torture that victims endure on a daily basis is almost impossible for most people to wrap their minds around. So, I told him to imagine that he's brutally beaten with fists, objects whatever is around. If he goes out he must account for his every minute. If he's at a store he had better produce the sales receipt to confirm when he left the store, he better have the exact change in his pocket upon his return. He has no contact with any family and has not friends to speak of because he's been cut off from them. All of this is done by the person that has claimed to love him. Crazy, right? Now, consider all these things that have already been done to him and add in an evening of ranting and raving and having a loaded gun held to his head while being told he'll be dead if he leaves. Now how easy is it for you? "Holy crap", he responded "now I see what you're talking about". Finally, he got it. If this person is capable of doing all of these horrible things, it's not too far fetched to believe they'd follow through on their threat.

There's so much more to this story but I'll go into it another day. All I ask is to imagine yourselves in a victims shoes for one day, then tell me how easy it is for you to say you'd be out of there at the first sign of anything.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Get a backbone already

I witnessed something today that turned my stomach. I'm a the supermarket loading my bags into the car and there's a group of 3 guys and one girl hanging out in the parking lot. The girl is obviously dating one of them. Well the lovely gentleman that he is begins speaking to her in the most degrading, disgusting manner I've ever heard. He proceeds to yell at her and call her every vulgar word you can imagine and what do his friends do? NOTHING, not a damn thing. The poor girl was literally in tears with him yelling in her face and these bunch of loosers are laughing. Although one of them wasn't laughing, he was just standing there which made me think. If he didn't find any of this acceptable or at all funny, why didn't he say something to his friend? Why, I'll tell you wouldn't be "cool" to say something about it, I mean come on..he's the man right? This must mean that he has some God given right to speak to women this way and if another man says something about it then he's weak, a loser, etc. Meanwhile, it takes a much stronger person to stand up for what they believe and to come to another persons defense than it does to sit there and say nothing.

My point is this, the only way to begin to eradicate this intolerable behavior is to number one continue to teach young girls about the warning signs of an abusive relationship, how to recognize it, how to get out of it, etc. Number two and here's the big one....MEN have to take a stand and start to speak out against this. If they see another man abusing a woman in any way or form, get a backbone and tell him it's not cool, it's not acceptable and he should stop. In addition, until such time as men begin to stop laughing at derogatory comments made towards women that will continue as well and the issue of violence against women will never end.

I pulled my car up and said something to him and asked the young woman if I could help her or give her a ride somewhere. She declined the offer and I'm sure you can imagine how he responded to me.

Why I'm Here

Alright, so I never saw myself as someone that would start their own blog. For the most part, I'm not the most tech savy person I know. In fact, most times, I'm on the phone with my dear old brother asking him ridiculous questions or calling my fiance to ask him how to answer the call waiting on my new Blackberry. However, while I may be new to this thing called blogging and my new fangled cell phone that I thought I was soooo cool for purchasing, I'm not new to an issue that plagues every member of our society whether they choose to recognize it or not. That issue is domestic violence, family violence, partner abuse, intimate partner violence or whatever it is you chose to call it. What it boils down to is the cruelty, brutality and inhumae treatement millions of women and adolescents suffer at the hands of an intimate partner.

Some might call me a radical feminist, others at times have even referred to me as a "femi-nazi" which I had a good laugh at. Reality is that I'm not all that radical and do enjoy the occassional time in which my fiance might hold a door open for me and even more importantly, take out the garbage. Hey, why should I get my hands dirty when he can do it for me, right? Doesn't sound so radical to me. But, if one considers a woman who does not buy into the nonsense that the man is the king of the castle, has the right to degrade and control their partner by means of verbal assaults, physical brutality and complete isolation as a radical feminist, then a radical feminist I am. Now I know that many might read this page and chose to pretend as though these things don't happen in their neighborhood or family as the old NIMBY mentality of Not in My Backyard is still in full effect. Truth is, this is happening in all neighborhoods across the country. Domestic violence does not discriminate and doesn't know any boundaries...all women can find themselves a victim and even the kindest, most personable man you know could very well be the perpetrator. Victims and abusers come from all walks of life, all economic classes, educational backgrounds, ethnicities, race and religions.

There are many contributing factors at play here however the most damaging is the fact that the issue, even today in the year 2006 is not openly discussed. Too many people chose to turn the other way when the issue is brought up. Too many people wrongly blame the victim and the perpetrators face little to no consequences for their actions by the criminal justice system.

Through this medium, I am looking forward to discussing the issue of domestic violence in its entirety ranging from the forms of abuse, cycle of violence, options available to victims, the response of law enforcement and the lack of serious penalties for perpetrating these heinous acts. Through this blog, I hope to raise awareness of the issue and motivate all of us to take a stand and take action to begin to end violence against women.

Working in the field of domestic violence for almost eight years, I have seen it all. With this has come many triumphs combined with frustrations. Working at a non profit, the funds for advertising and materials that are so desparately needed to educate the public and raise awareness simply are not there. There is so much to do and say and every day I am limited due to the lack of funding. At the same time, because of the nature of some of our largest funding sources, much of what I have to say is usually censured as to be politically correct.

Well is my opportunity to say what I'm thinking so hang on and enjoy the ride!

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