by Rima Thompson
Domestic violence is defined as battery or assault against an individual by someone close to him or her.
The abuser can be a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or relative. A Center for Disease Control reported that it occurs every 18 seconds in the United States.
According to the Family Peace and Violence Prevention Web site, “domestic violence is a pattern of behavior, repeated over time, by which one partner controls and harasses the other through fear and the threat or use of violence.”
In an article, Domestic Disease, written by Carmen Marcus, domestic violence is referred to as a domestic disease. By recognizing it as a disease, Marcus said, “Local hospitals are identifying and treating domestic abuse as a health care problem, saving thousands of women and, potentially, millions of dollars.”
The Family Peace and Violence Prevention website lists the four forms of domestic violence as emotional, sexual, physical and economic abuse.
Emotional abuse is a form of mental or psychological abuse against another person, most often referred to as verbal abuse. It lowers one’s self-esteem, and it can involve separating a victim from loved ones.
Physical abuse is physically assaulting an individual with the use of weapons or by hitting, punching, pushing and kicking.
Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual interaction.
Economic abuse is a form of control in which the abuser restricts the amount of money the abused can have. The abuser has full control over the finances in the relationship. The abuser also has control over the employment of the abused.
Domestic violence is unfolded in three cycles. The first is the tension and threatening cycle. The second is the violent phase where the abuser actually assaults his or her victim. The last cycle is the “honeymoon” phase where the abuser attempts to reconcile with the victim by promising not to harm him or her again and lavishing them with gifts.
Some signs of a violent relationship include pushes, shoves, slaps, kicks, chokes or bites.
Other signs include when someone keeps track of you all the time, locks you out of your home, prevents you from working or going to school, stops you from talking and meeting with friends and family, make fun of you in front of others, listens to your phone calls or prevents you from using the phone, criticizes you for little things, keeps you at home and takes car keys and money from you.
If you do one or more of the following, you may be the abuser: display an unusual amount of jealousy, get violent around other people, play with guns and use them to protect yourself from other people, expect your loved one to spend all his or her free time with you, have a dual personality, temper is frequently lost and gives on a sense of fear when you become angry.
Dr. Tracy Shaw, of the Domestic Violence Institute, said in article, “How to Spot An Abuser”, that “the more signs an individual displays, the likelihood of he or she being an abuser increase.”
In a survey by the Commonwealth Fund, 31 percent of women in the United States have reported being physically and sexually abused by a loved one.
In another survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, women are victimized by loved ones 5 to 8 times more than men. The same survey reported that two percent of men and 21 percent of women experience violent crimes by the hands of a loved one.
One in five females in high school are said to be physically or sexually abused by someone they date, according to a survey done by the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior.
Carol Davis, clinical therapist with the Department of Behavioral Health, said, “the most likely victims are teens, because they might not realize that they are being abused.”
According to Davis, teenagers need to be educated and need to know what kinds of behavior are not okay. They need to be able to distinguish between “interest and control,” Davis said.
A Center for Disease Control report stated that 22 percent of college students account for non-sexual dating violence.
There is help for those who are being abused. First and foremost victims are advised to contact the local police department, save evidence and get away if you feeling in danger.
Andrea Swiestra, a mental health specialist with San Bernardino County, facilitates a domestic violence counseling group. Swiestra said she counsels her participants on the cycle of violence, the effects of domestic violence on children, escape and resources.
“People who are currently in abusive relationships discuss breaking through the denial and recognizing that the situation will not get any better,” Swiestra said. “Many of the victims themselves turn into abusers, they go into other relationships and constantly push as hard as they can to start the behavior all over.”
She uses the “Red Flag” video to teach abused individuals the types of behavior associated with domestic violence.
Swiestra then advises her participants to use the information as preventive medicine, similar to a flu shot before getting the flu.
Her sessions usually end with the distribution of a handbook.
Sylvia Solario, intern with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, said there are many ways to receive help.
“The victim can usually access domestic violence counseling, while the abuser can access anger management classes,” Solario said. “The media has played a big part in making many aware of domestic violence and the resources available to victims.”
The counseling will help build the individual’s identity, promote self-esteem and give support towards success.
Start with bite size pieces, get the restraining order, get rid of negative messages and start taking baby steps.
For more information, visit these sites: Family Peace and Violence Prevention Center at www.familypeace.net/domesticviolence/default.htm and City of Fullerton Preventing Domestic Abuse at www.ci.fullerton.ca.us/police.tips.domestic.html.
The National Domestic Abuse hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).