By LaDonna Scott is the owner of Destiny By Choice, LLC. LaDonna is a State Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and belongs to the National Anger Management Association (NAMA). She is certified through NAMA and the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth as a facilitator and has an extensive history working in the substance abuse and domestic violence field.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors resulting in power and control over an intimate partner. Witnessing family violence creates significant emotional and psychological issues due to the high stress experienced by the child. Domestic violence is a major predictor of child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country.” (www.resiliencetrumpsaces.org)
The term “domestic violence” holds a connotation of physical abuse. Unfortunately, this is far from accurate. Domestic violence is about power and control of another person. Although the legal definition refers to infliction of physical harm, bodily injury or assault, it is the infliction of fear that is a key component of domestic abuse. This can occur with a look, gesture or action that does not involve hitting someone. The “unspoken message” is the implication that someone could be injured or be subjected to a variety of repercussions.
A misperception of domestic abuse is that someone has “anger” issues. Anger is an emotion. Abuse is a behavior. Within the realm of domestic violence, perpetrators don’t lose control because they are angry, they are angry because they lose control. As a result, tactics associated with fear and intimidation are used to gain control and get what they want. Additionally, offenders often present themselves well publicly, yet, privately, are hurtful.
Families and loved one’s often feel helpless and at a loss as to how to address their concerns. Those who have been subjected to domestic abuse have often endured a long history of self-esteem assassination and have legitimate concerns for their safety, and for the safety of their family, children, and pets. It’s not as easy as “just leave”, especially when children are involved. Access to finances is another factor that limits the ability of families to “just leave”.
Children are often the hidden victims of abuse. Although the abuse may not be directed at the child, they absorb the hostility, fear and helplessness that is present within the relationship. This often manifests into physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral issues for the child. It is important to hold the offender, not the victim, responsible for this dynamic. While victims often require support and assistance to address what is happening, they should not experience consequences or be the focus of the dynamics that were created by an abuser.
Fortunately, there are programs available to address the beliefs that support the use of abuse tactics. This requires a commitment to learning about the dynamics of abuse and violence, assuming personal accountability for thoughts and actions, and a commitment to replacing destructive beliefs and behaviors with healthy, equal, supportive and empathetic behaviors.
Many participants enter believing they are not abusive because they do not “physically” harm loved ones. Clarification is provided regarding the multitude of tactics (verbal, emotional, sexual) used to illicit fear and intimidation or to control others. Addressing what they have done rather than focusing on what they haven’t done and the impact of their behaviors on their loved ones is a step towards personal accountability. There are also advocacy programs for victims and resources for children to assist with the healing process.
We need to challenge cultural ideas of gender roles and establish belief systems that do not tolerate abuse and violence.
We need to provide environments free from fear and intimidation so children can grow up feeling safe and comfortable being who they are. This will reduce the potential that they will grow up to be a victim or perpetrator of violence.
If you suspect someone is experiencing domestic abuse, call 1-800-462-5525 or 1-218-828-4357.