Domestic Violence

We have all been deluged recently by the O.J. Simpson trial and its bizarre details of violence and obsession. Reporters and commentators have come forward to relate the great "love" that O.J. and Nicole had toward each other. "Love" in our society has been misused and lessened by events such as these. Love does not trap us into a prison of fear and violence.As a result of all the news around us, domestic violence has made us wonder how such a thing could happen to people who once cared for each other. It frightens and baffles us.

The U.S. is one of the most violent societies in the world. Whether we realize it or not, our society teaches children that it is okay to use violence to get what we want. The tougher you are, the more "respect" you receive. Violence is all around children today, on television, movies, and in magazines. Is it any wonder then that if children see violence enough that it will affect how they interact with others? Children look to adults in their families to care for them and to provide them with what they need in order to be independent adults. All children need love, attention, comfort and encouragement. Most adults want what is best for their children, unfortunately not all adults know what is best for young people. They don't know because no one gave them what they needed when they were children. Maybe they were emotionally, physically, verbally or sexually abused as children and believe that abuse is a natural part of family life. For whatever reason, instead of giving love and affection, family members sometimes abuse or even seriously hurt one another. This is family or domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a crime.It usually follows a somewhat predictable pattern which is referred to as the "cycle of violence". Alcohol and/or drugs may increase the episodes or durations of each phase of the cycle. In the first stage, tension and frustration build up in the abuser. There may be minor arguments and some pushing and shoving. The victim may try to appease or humor the abuser. In stage two, there is conflict that increases and leads to a full attack. Once violence begins, the victim can't stop it. In stage three, there is usually guilt and apologies on behalf of the abuser who may say that it will never happen again. This stage is often called the honeymoon phase, but it is a temporary reprieve from the chaos and violence. Most abusers are men, however the reverse could also be true.

Family violence teaches children that the way to handle conflict is through brutality and intimidation. It is a method of control and power. Children in such homes often feel fear, sadness, depression and helplessness. They can't do anything to stop it and feel that somehow they are to blame. This is not true. Children are not responsible for the outrageous acts of adults.

The battered wife is at the mercy of another's moods and temper tantrums. She may feel that she has no control in her life and that no one cares about her feelings. She needs to deny or stifle her feelings. This leads to her own depression and low self esteem. She is a pawn and is manipulated by her husband and by society. The idea of making a decision or to have a choice in her own life seems ridiculous.

It takes a lot of courage for a woman so beaten down, psychologically and physically, to take a positive step toward safety in her life. That takes energy and she has little left. She may also be financially dependent on her spouse causing her to "think twice" before leaving the situation.It may be dangerous for her to seek help.All this keeps the woman in a place of dependence and submission.

However, if a woman wants to change her life, there are steps she can take. To have control and gain independence help is there for those who want to take it. Immediately after the violence with the abuser, take action. Call a domestic violence shelter, leave the house immediately, call the police and/or go to the local hospital. There are options available. If possible, take any money or important papers that may be needed.

Also, there is legal protection for the victim of violence. Persons protected by the domestic violence law can request an "Order of Protection" from a judge. This prohibits further acts of violence and may require the abuser to move out of the home. There is a fee for filing and serving the order, but the fee could be postponed if necessary. The order lasts six months and may be renewed.

Remember, no one has to be abused. Families in this situation should seek help - Counseling may be a good way to start. For your sake and that of the children, get help. Know your options, have a plan and take action!

Copyright 1994,1995 Lovina Pivin
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