Siouxland Observer

Master of Science

Thursday, February 05, 2015

“What is your emergency?”

“I'd like a pizza for delivery.”

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“There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day,” journalist Alexander Woollcott, an American critic and commentator, wrote.  But this is not always true, and especially for victims of domestic abuse, where an unimportant day is actually a day of bliss.

For an unimportant day is an uneventful day; a day free of eggshells, lying, and hiding.  A day without fear; a day of rest.  Unfortunately, victims of domestic abuse face dread every day.  There’s never a worry-free day in a world of fear, emotional stress and body-numbing violence.

“Domestic Abuse is a problem in every county around the country.”

This is a world where women, children and even men are harassed, intimidated, beaten and killed: A costly endeavor that includes counseling services, housing for victims, the police, courts and educational services.

“Domestic Abuse is a problem in every county around the country,” Dr. Paul Campbell said, an instructor in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Criminal Justice at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska.

“A lot of what we talk about is hidden violence,” Campbell said, “the episodes of violence that never make it to the official statistics.  Half of all marriages have some incident of violence in them. … A lot of it is hidden and kept within the family.”

According to Campbell, both men and women can be victims of domestic abuse, but male victims are less common.  By far, Campbell said, women and children suffer the most.

Abuse and violence is learned, a shared behavior taught by family members who inflict emotional and physical punishment on those around them.  Children who come from abusive homes are more likely to find abusers to share their life with, or they become abusers themselves. 

Simply, it is a “comfortable,” and learned behavior that can only be broken by awareness, effort and education.  Without intervention, abusive behavior never ends, and is passed from generation to generation.

“They learned that hitting is okay at home,” Campbell said, “and then they do that to their own children — unless they make a real conscious effort to change that pattern.  The males who have a history of abuse tend to go from victim to victim to victim.  It is not her fault that he does it.  It is his behavior that is the cause of this stuff.”

For many women, and even men, this pattern begins as innocently as dating someone who seems too good to be true.  An overly attentive and “concerned individual,” who calls everyday, and sometimes several times a day.

Also, an interest in every little detail of someone's life is often how abuse manifests itself in the early stages of a relationship: A person need not be trapped inside a home to be a victim of domestic abuse.  But to understand the scourge, and stop it from impacting lives in the community, and the community itself, it takes awareness and outreach programs.  And some of the the best start with the youngest victims.

(The video below explores programs most experts agree helps.)

Education awareness and counseling are vital in helping stop the crime of violence and domestic abuse, though in many cases protection orders are needed — or in the case of serious family violence — shelter.

“Every situation is different,” Nancy Cederlind said, an executive director at a women’s shelter in Wayne, Nebraska. “And every individual is different. They can come in and talk, or we can help the person through what is going on in their life. Some need support; some need safety.”

“The most important thing is enhancing the knowledge of domestic violence and sexual assault, and where victims can go for help.” 

Almost always, according to Cederlind, the abuse begins gradually, and escalates over time.  Anything that keeps a person down is a problem, and usually accompanies a breakdown in communications in which nothing a victim can say or do ends the problem.  Victims struggle to keep the abuser calm, otherwise the accusations resurface, tensions build, and the walls close in again. Anything can cause outbursts, accusations, and anger.

“The most important thing is enhancing the knowledge of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Cederlind said, “and where they can go for help.”   

In her book, The Battered Woman, Lenore E. Walker detailed this pattern of abuse.  She called it the Battered Woman Syndrome, and it has become a defense when women fight back against their abusers.  But even if a victim stops the abusive anger, the problems never go away.  If confronted, the abuser apologies, but this “making-up” is just a part of the overall pattern of abuse.  Unless there is a serious effort put forth, the apology means nothing, and the anger and manipulations begin anew, over and over.  The abuser tells the victim it is going to stop, but it never does.

Cederlind said each stage of the process begins to differ in length and duration.  The total cycle can last for a few hours, days, or even months and years, before the cycle is completed.  Often, as the manipulations and anger grow more serious, there is no downtime or calm. The anger simply never abates.  Everyday becomes important because it could be the victim’s last.  That's why an unimportant day is truly bliss for victims of domestic abuse.

And it is not just women bullies abuse.  They gloat in their power and control over roommates, cell mates, friends and family.  For those under the power and control of an abuser, a 911 call for pizza is a Hail Mary pass.  For when a victim cries for help, she is at far greater risk of death than at any other time during the abusive cycle.  These calls are a matter of life or death.