Friday, November 22, 2013

The Facts and Faces of Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Below is a video documentary of women who have been abused and commentary from those who work with them.
The second video speaks to the damage done to children who see, hear or perceive domestic violence.
Why don't these women leave? It is said they are beaten down before they are beaten up. Below is a chart showing 18 different kinds of Verbal Abuse. If they look familiar, seek help. In many areas there are Domestic Violence Programs with FREE individual and group counseling.

Isolation, financial control and having children with an abuser all complicate leaving. As women hope and wait for change, remembering the charming or 'loving' earlier treatment or having financial constraints, those with children are being damaged by the role modeling of the men and women in their lives. Boys can become abusers and Girls can seek abusers as partners. Children many times also treat their mother exactly like their father did, so even after divorce, the family dynamic is scarred and difficult.

How prevalent is Family Violence? In Harris County, Texas, which is the Houston area, in which there is one Sheriff's Deputy for every 175,000 people, the Domestic Violence Unit has 250-300 new cases on their desks every WEEK. It is like a lottery, when you think of it, when it comes to the probability of getting help and protection.  The FBI printed an article in which they operationalize six discretionary investigative techniques to increase prosecution and conviction rates of Domestic Violence. They are as follows:

1. Take pictures of the victim, children and any property damage.
These pictures become the visible evidence for the judge.
In 21 states, it is a Felony if children are present, yet in only 4% of cases are children even listed as being present. Texas is not a state with this law or statute. In others such as Utah or Oregon, if the child sees, hears or 'perceives' the violence (worded differently in each state), it is a felony because of the grave consequences to their lives, and our society. The brain makes changes during a trauma. The most impressionable brain is one of an infant, with it's soft spongy biology, made to pick up language, etc. quickly. In a study done, babies that listen to violence (helpless and afraid and confused as to why Mommy and Daddy/Partner are hurting each other or being hurt) are impacted more than if they themselves are harmed. One baby for instance, grew up to harm another child at age 4.

In many family violence cases, the children are also harmed by verbal, physical, emotional, and financial abuse, and many are also victims of sexual violence. It makes sense when boundaries have been violated already. A domestic violence perpetrator may be an untreated victim of family violence in one of its forms: sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, etc. Thus they may be projecting this unresolved pain onto those around them, not feeling deserving of love, and acting in a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's kind of like the Snoopy cartoon of PigPen's character, unwashed and dusty, leaving piles of angry residue everywhere they go.
2. Interview and report children if they are present.  Never assume a child is asleep and doesn't hear it, or won't know of other incidents they will speak to. Also interview neighbors for any information they might have. Sometimes they witness or hear threats, etc. Prosecution rates go up 66-70% with  multiple witnesses. Voice mails or texts or first person witnessed accounts from the victim are often available from family or friends.
3. Prosecution is more successful if a Protective Order is filed.
4. Making arrests gets the case in front of a judge. In any case, both parties need help, as do the children. States become the Complainant, so they don't rely on the Victim who may recant out of fear of reprisal, or fear of financial consequences.
5. Listing Multiple Counts or Offenses. ie: Vandalism for property damage to cars, furniture, personal items such as computers, phones,  etc. Taking a phone is a 'count'. Habitually drunk in front of children is a count, and should be referred to Child Services.
6. Submitting Reports Quickly. Reports that take over 10 days have a 24% reduction in conviction. Over 30 days is a 50% reduction.

Each jurisdiction or area of law enforcement creates their own case priority. Half of all homicides are from domestic violence. In Harris County last year, there were 29 deaths from family violence, and 114 in the State of Texas. Only 21 of these 114 victims had taken steps to get away from their situation. We cannot blame these victims. Historically, and now as seen in the case loads, if family violence is not a priority, or if a policy of rotation of Officers means untrained individuals are responding to life and death matters, we can easily see why trust in law enforcement and justice for victims has been compromised.
Personally, I believe a female officer should accompany the responding team, to view all the reported areas of attack, in privacy. This way, with pictures and the officer as a witness, the case will move ahead, instead of the ball being dropped. Each victim may not have another chance for protection.

1 in 3 women have been or will be abused. Obviously, this affects all of us. 75% of the time the acts of aggression for Power and Control are not accompanied by drugs and alcohol. This points to cultural problems.
50% of all criminal violence and homicides involve domestic violence.
73% of women who are killed by domestic violence never called to report it.
Children in a home are often killed first, so the female victim sees this, in a homicide/suicide.
The best statistical predictor of impending death or lethality in a domestic violent relationship is if strangulation has been used.

18 Verbal Abuse Categories
In Domestic Violence relationships, they often start out warm and charming, and then there is verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse which is blamed on the victim, followed by a honeymoon period of gifts and/or promises, as if it will not happen again, while the victim is in a state of shock.
The abuser will isolate the victim with use of her phone, jealousy, finances, threats, injuries and her children to control his 'love supply'.

The abuser often has a wounded childhood past, and selfishly holds onto the victim as his love source, in an unhealthy demanding way, based on fear that she will leave. Leaving is the time when there is no longer ability to control and have power over the victim, so this is the most dangerous time. The idea that women are 'property' helps to promote this behavior in our culture, as does male privilege, objectifying women, and inequality and devaluing of women, even in pay scales. All these practices speak to the problem of violence against women.

**Women need options for leaving, and a 'safety' plan before they leave, and one for after they leave.
15% of victims are males.
After acts of aggression and violence, there is a Honeymoon period, followed by increased tension, and then more violence, many times, escalating violence in a faster sequence.

Children who are physically and sexually abused in a home of domestic violence are damaged, but statistics show those children who watch violence, not being able to 'fix it', are actually damaged more. Suicides, drug and alcohol use and abuse often involve having been in a home of domestic violence. Instead of being able to absorb layers of development and learning, the child has learned to scan the room and watch hands, faces and voices, because their brain is wired for erupting violence. Their normal and needed human development is often interrupted and abbreviated.

Children's exposure to domestic violence typically falls into three primary categories:
  • Hearing a violent event; 
  •  Being directly involved as an eyewitness, intervening, or being used as a part of a violent event (e.g., being used as a shield against abusive actions); 
  •  Experiencing the aftermath of a violent event.20 

Possible Symptoms in Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
  • Sleeplessness, fears of going to sleep, nightmares, dreams of danger;
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches;
  • Hypervigilance to danger or being hurt;
  • Fighting with others, hurting other children or animals;
  • Temper tantrums or defiant behavior;
  • Withdrawal from people or typical activities;
  • Listlessness, depression, low energy;
  • Feelings of loneliness and isolation;
  • Current or subsequent substance abuse;
  • Suicide attempts or engaging in dangerous behavior;
  • Poor school performance;
  • Difficulties concentrating and paying attention;
  • Fears of being separated from the nonabusing parent;
  • Feeling that his or her best is not good enough;
  • Taking on adult or parental responsibilities;
  • Excessive worrying;
  • Bed-wetting or regression to earlier developmental stages;
  • Dissociation;
  • Identifying with or mirroring behaviors of the abuser.27

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