ESCANABA - As I read of another incident of murder in our neighboring state of Wisconsin due to domestic violence, I am so saddened by this tragedy and loss. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the closer to home these incidences happen; the more I am compelled to get the word out on the definition of domestic violence, the warning signs, and where and how to get assistance getting away from an abusive situation. Domestic violence has become a major epidemic in society. It severely affects those involved as well as the children associated with these unions. Domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse alone, and some victims do not believe they are being abused because their partner has not physically abused them. Mental and emotional abuse can have just as devastating effects on victims and their children. It can happen in the form of threats, name calling, throwing objects, degrading comments, stalking, and controlling others in the home.
As hard as we work to combat this epidemic, this problem will never go away for a variety of reasons. Some examples of these reasons follow:
- Victims do not report the abuse because they are afraid of retaliation by the abuser
- Friends and family are not getting involved because they are afraid it will cause the situation to worsen for the victim
- Neighbors do not want to become involved because they feel it is none of their business
- Victims are afraid to leave the abuser, because they have become accustomed to the abuse within their 'comfort zone.' Leaving an abuser may mean uprooting the children from their home and belongings, moving to a different city, and having to go through the humiliating experience of testifying in court, all of which can be as scary for a victim to experience as enduring the abuse.
- Victims may not know where to turn for help.
- Many times, the victims go back to the violent relationship after they have left. They may blindly believe that working things out is better for their children.
- Victims ignore the warning signs of domestic violence early in the relationship.
Warning signs include the following:
- Abusers are controlling and are not happy when things do not go their way.
- They demand to have their partners' passwords to email accounts, text messages, and social media accounts, such as Facebook and MySpace, and go through their messages frequently.
- Abusers are jealous and become angry with their partners if they talk to other people of the opposite sex and will accuse them of flirting with them and cheating.
- Abusers like to control what types of clothes their partners wear.
- They isolate their partners and try to limit the time they spend with their friends and extended family members.
- Abusers do not take responsibility for their actions. They blame everyone else for their abusive actions and are narcissistic.
- They damage their partners' belongings.
- Abusers degrade and belittle their partners by calling them names, making hurtful comments about their physical appearance, and telling them they are worthless and stupid.
- Many abusers will also sexually abuse their partners by coercing them to have sex when they don't want to and refusing to use birth control during sex.
- Abusers stalk their partners and check on their whereabouts. Sometimes, they will appear at their partners' jobs for no particular reason except to harass and intimidate them.
- Abusers are extremely critical. There are few things that their partners can do that are 'good enough' for them.
- They are aggressive towards animals and children.
- Abusers treat their partners as objects they own, rather than a person with feelings.
- Abusers do not consider their partners' opinions to be equally important.
- They humiliate their partners in front of other people.
The Alliance Against Violence and Abuse, Inc. (AAVA), located in Delta, Menominee, and Schoolcraft counties, is a non-profit agency designed for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. AAVA works diligently to prevent domestic violence through education and awareness, and provide a safe place, safety planning, and many other services to those who have become victims of domestic violence. According to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting (MICR), there were over 95,000 reports of domestic violence in Michigan during 2011; 101 of these incidences were fatal. This does not include those who are reporting injuries from domestic violence as accidental rather than intentional or not reporting domestic violence at all. The staggering numbers of incidences would hopefully cause those who know of anyone living in a domestic violence situation to get them some help.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the only safe solution is to leave the abuser and not go back. If you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, please encourage them to get help. If you personally witness domestic violence occurring around you, contact the police and report what you saw. Contact the AAVA crisis line at 906-789-1166 or 1-800-682-1649 if you need more information.
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Tamie Cunningham is the Alliance Against Violence and Abuse executive director