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Friday, September 30, 2011

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

After leaving my abusive husband and starting to emotionally recover, I decided to become a voice in the fight against domestic violence by telling my story.  My hope is that raising awareness will lead to prevention, because no one should have to live like that. 
But what exactly does this awareness mean?  For professionals in the police and courts it’s very important to understand the dynamics of an abusive relationship and make the right decision to the best of their ability.   More knowledge and awareness should mean better decisions.
What about for the average person?  I would like the average person to be more aware of what it encompasses and how hard it is to pull away from the abuser.    They would be more open to helping friends and family in abusive relationships if they understood more, and did not judge the victim.   The abused person needs lots of support before, during and after they leave their abuser.

What about for the person in an abusive relationship?  They also need to be more aware of what it is and why the abuser does what he does.  They need to know that it’s not ok. They need to know that they deserve better, and they need to know how to get out safely.  
My story in a nutshell – I am an educated professional woman with a good job.  I married and educated professional with a good job.   There were a few red flags  in the courtship, but I did not understand what they were and I thought I could deal with my future husband’s ‘emotional’ behavior.   I was wrong.   We got married and his behavior almost immediately deteriorated once we were living in the same house.  Verbal abuse and controlling behavior in the beginning, then the physical threats started.  When my second child was about a year old he started with the physical abuse, holding me down, grabbing my arms and eventually putting his hands around my throat.  It continued to get worse until I got a protective order and had him forcibly removed from the house and filed for divorce when my children where three and four years old.  Thirteen months later we were officially divorced.  That was six months ago.   I’ve compiled my list below of the things I want people to know by the category above.    These are strictly my opinions based on my experience and the experience of others I have come across in my research on many web sites,  in an informal poll,  and in about a dozen books.

For professionals
Right after a violent incident, the perpetrator has the ability appear completely calm and rational, leaving the victim to appear hysterical or lying about the abuse.

Men that abuse and manipulate their partners will continue to do so for the rest of their lives – aim to minimize interaction between them in setting up custody agreements.   They will take almost every opportunity to verbally abuse their ex-wife or to manipulate the situation.
Ex-wives are still scared and will give in to the ex-husband because it is easier and safer than fighting.

Men that abuse their wives are typically bad roles models and should not be allowed to have standard visitation with the children.  They have poor coping skills and are typically emotionally immature and it will eventually affect the children either directly or indirectly.

Battering intervention programs may help some men, but most men do not make a significant change.  Do not assume that if they have been through a program that they are ‘better’.
For the general public
Domestic violence  encompasses a wide range of intimidating, humiliating, threatening behaviors designed to control the victim.  These include verbal, emotional, financial, sexual and physical abuse.

It can happen to anyone.

Living with an abuser is chaos and torture combined.   Fights can go on for hours and often happen in front of the children.

The victim is always on edge and afraid of the abuser.
The victim did not do anything to deserve this behavior.

The victim believes the abuser can change.
Leaving means giving up on the relationship, which is very hard for the victim to do.

The victim is ashamed to tell you about it and ask for help.
Leaving an abuser is a scary proposition and, in fact, women more likely to be seriously harmed or killed after they have left than during the relationship.

Leaving has emotional, financial, physical, and safety issues and needs to be planned.
Just because a victim doesn’t leave doesn’t mean that “It’s not that bad.”    It’s is that bad and it only gets worse. 

The victim is scared and feels powerless to change the situation.
For the victim
It’s not okay – if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not.

Even though you might think, ‘it’s not that bad’, it is - no amount of abuse is acceptable and it’s okay to leave.
You do not deserve to be abused, and the abuse will always get worse.

Everything they do is an attempt to manipulate and control you.
You did not do anything to cause the abuse.

It’s not because of drugs or alcohol.
You think you can protect your children more if you are there with the abuser, rather than apart from him, but it’s not true. Think about how much the children are hurt by what they see and hear on and ongoing basis.

Boys that witness domestic violence are much more likely to be abusers – stop the cycle.
Girls that witness domestic violence are much more likely to be abused – stop the cycle.

The abuser will not change without significant time and effort and help from outside sources and even this is unlikely.
You are not a failure if it does not work out, he is.

Most women (75%) do eventually leave, so why not do it sooner rather than later.

Make sure you and your children are safe when you leave.
Be patient with your children. They've seen enough violence and heard enough yelling and screaming for a lifetime.  They will thrive in a calm environment.
The abuser will act normal for a while after you leave, but don’t fall for it. The abusive behavior always comes back.
If you have children, you will have to deal with his bad behavior for a long time, but it’s still better than living with him.

It takes strength and courage to leave and stay gone, but it will eventually give you peace.

I've put an 'End Domestic Violence' support sticker on my car, even though I’m afraid of what my ex-husband might think if/when he sees it.  So far he has either not noticed, or chosen not to say anything.   
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and I encourage you to do something positive to help others, or to get help yourself .

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