Siouxland Observer

MS. ED

Thursday, February 05, 2015


911: “Half pepperoni; half mushroom?”

   
"There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day,” journalist Alexander Woollcott wrote. Woollcott was an American critic and commentator, and one of the most quoted men of his generation.  But not all days are important, and for victims of domestic abuse, an unimportant day is actually a day of bliss. 

For in fact, an unimportant day is an uneventful day.  It is a day without walking on eggshells, without lying, hiding or worrying.  It is a day without fear; a day of rest.  Unfortunately, victims of domestic abuse face fear and dread every moment of every day.  There are no free days in the world of someone battered by emotional stress and body-numbing violence. It just doesn’t happen.

Domestic abuse 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, the courts and educational services. 

Spillover.

"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.

"A lot of what we talk about is hidden violence: 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.

Domestic abuse and violence is learned, according to Campbell.  It is 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, or become abusers themselves. 

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

"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 individual, who calls everyday, and sometimes several times a day, is not always a “great catch.”.  An interest in every little detail of a person's private life is how it begins.  (A victim need not be trapped inside a home to feel its presence.)  But to understand it, and stop what it becomes takes awareness in a community outreach program.  And the best place to start is with the youngest victims.

The video shared here explores the kind of 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.  She worked as an executive director at a women’s shelter in 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."

But almost always, according to Cederlind, the abuse begins gradually, and escalates over time.  Anything that keeps a person down is a problem.  And there is usually a breakdown of communications where there is nothing a victim can say or do that will end the abuse.  Usually, the victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm.  Tensions build, and many victims feel trapped.  Unfortunately, anything can cause another outburst of accusations and anger.

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 often used when women fight back. But even if victims stop the anger, the problem never goes away.  The outburst is often followed by apologies and guilt, but this "making-up" stage is just part of the overall pattern of abuse.

Unfortunately, unless there is serious effort, the apologies mean nothing, and the anger and manipulations begin again and again.   The abuser says it will stop, but it never does.

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

According to Cederlind, each stage of the process soon begins to differ in length of duration.  The total cycle can last for a few hours, a few days, a few months or even years before completed. Often, as the manipulations and anger become more serious, there is no downtime-no calm. The anger never abates.  Everyday becomes too important.  It could be the victims’ last.  An unimportant day is truly bliss for the victims of domestic abuse.

It is impossible to explain this feeling in words, but the feeling is pure terror and angst (victims are truly alone).

And it is not just women these bullies abuse.  (And bully is a very, very polite euphemism....)  They will share their gloating power and control on roommates, cellmates, friends and, of course, their lucky family. When you are under the power and control of an abuser, a 911 call for pizza is a Hail Mary pass.  The sad truth is the victim is at far greater risk of death than at any other time during the abuse.  This is not explored is this YouTube video, but the call is dead serious: it is a mater of life or death:



For help, please contact: www.thehotline.org.  ( A notice will allow the viewer to erase telltale login or computer user tracks.)