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It’s Domestic Violence awareness month, but it’s there 365, 24/7.

I never saw myself as a DV counselor.  I did a very brief internship due to my supervisor volunteering at a DV shelter when I was in grad school.  I don’t think I “got” domestic violence back then.  I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where I never witnessed any, and despite dating a few violent a$$h*oles in high school and college, I still couldn’t relate.  Why? Because I walked away from above mentioned a holes. We were just casually dating.  I moved on, they moved on.

It wasn’t until I started working with victims (and some perpetrators) of DV that I realized how dependent the victims are on their perpetrator.  The perp will make the money, be in charge of all of the accounts, sometimes cut them off from family and friends, etc.

But please don’t think that victims of DV are cowering, helpless women that never go outside.  They can be professional women, with kids and jobs.  They can be military, civilian, doctors, lawyers.  They can even be MEN.  Yes, I’ve worked with several victims that are men.  No one ever suspects that the reason they are late for work, or walk with a limp is because their partner abused them.

Another trend in the DV world that I’m seeing more and more of is dual perp, dual victim.  This essentially means that within the couple, both partners are guilty of committing DV acts against the other.  Sometimes at the same time.  While you might  think that’s called a “fight” when it involves an intimate partner, a spouse or the mother/father of your child it is classified as Domestic Violence EVEN if they don’t reside together.

So what can you do?  Be aware.  Be observant.  DV can be a screaming argument in the grocery store, it can be a woman that can’t buy her own things because her partner controls the money, it can even be a LOOK.  You know that look.  The “you better know your place” look.   I’m not saying that every verbal argument, every disagreement qualifies as Domestic Violence.  We all argue with our spouses/SO, it’s of part of being a couple.  The minute it becomes physical it qualifies as DV.  If there is a pervasive pattern of emotional or verbal abuse, it does.

What can you do?  Be there for the person.  Let them know there are resources available, if they choose to use them.  Don’t chastise the person.  Their self-esteem is low enough already.  You actually (unintentionally) mimic the abuser when you tell them “just leave, you can do better, you don’t deserve this.”  Just be supportive.   Let them know of local resources.  Don’t know of any- find some! I guarantee there are some in your area, they just might be a little hidden to protect the victims.

Since DV is around us all the time, educating yourself on resources will be useful at some point in your life.

If you ever get the chance to see “Domestic Violence: the Musical” (yes, I’m not making that up) see it!  It explains DV from the victim’s perspective, the abuser’s perspective, and the friends and family’s perspective.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness month- and chances are, you’re part of the problem!

dv ribbon

Ok, so my title is a little inflammatory, but read on before you become too defensive.

I’m hoping you’ve seen at least one purple ribbon this month and have a general idea of what Domestic Violence (DV) is. I could talk about statistics or how many deaths each year are DV related (22-25% nationally and believed to be grossly under-reported). You can Google that. Or you might have already heard it if you attended one of the many DV Awareness events that happen in October. What about the other 11 months? Silence is Killer.

We’ve all had THAT friend that has been a victim. We are sympathetic, we offer to help, we might even offer to beat up the abuser (or worse!). But are we really helping or are we adding to the problem?

To understand, let’s first define DV:
Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence.

We can split hairs and say it’s technically between two intimate partners (married or not) but I like the above definition.

So if you’ve never beat or raped your intimate partner, you’re doing pretty good, right? What about the VERBAL part of DV? How many of you have called your partner worthless, a**hole, wh*re, etc. in the heat of the moment? ONE or TWO incidents of this in the heat of the moment does not an abuser make, but it definitely puts you on a slippery path. Let it become a pattern and it becomes more difficult to label yourself “not an abuser”.

But what about the friends of that above mentioned “friend”? We’ve all known someone who dates a jerk that beats her/him, puts her/him down, etc. And what do we do as the supportive friend?
We say things like:
You don’t need to put up with his/her sh*t!”
“Leave, you can do better!”
“Why on God’s earth would you stay with them?”
“I told you they weren’t right for you!”
“I can’t believe you’re still with him/her. I wouldn’t put up with that!”

By saying these “helpful” statements, we are just helping the abuser out. The abuser has already taken our friend’s self-esteem and made it virtually non-existent. We re-enforce that by telling them how “Stupid” they are for staying. Read the italicized statements again– they are all judgemental. To someone with no self-esteem they can sound like an attack. We might even get mad at them (the victim!) for going back to the abuser, for dropping the charges, for giving the abuser “just one more chance”.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve said similar. I have too. I wanted to just make my friend see how precious she was and how she deserved SO MUCH BETTER. I was so happy when she took out papers against her abuser and madder than hell when she dropped those charges/papers within 48 hours. Now I know better. Educate yourself. Educate your friends. Be supportive and NON JUDGEMENTAL of anyone that is going through this. Try to find resources for them to get the help they need without making them feel bad. Speak up. One awesome sheriff that totally gets the victim’s mentality said “if it’s predictable, it’s preventable.” If you see violence escalating in you or someone you love’s life, get help! There is safe help out there.

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