Samantha, the Training & Technical Assistance Coordinator with Home Free, provided an engaging and informative training on the basic dynamics of domestic violence (DV). She shared statistics about the prevalence of domestic violence nationally as well as locally, busted many of the myths about DV, explored the effects of domestic violence on adults, discussed reasons why people have a difficult time leaving a relationship with an abusive partner, and shared resources for volunteers to use to assist in being supportive of survivors.
First, we began with a few caveats and ground rules for the training:
1. Domestic Violence (DV) is a complex topic, so the purpose of this training is to use the amount of time given to provide a very basic overview of some of the dynamics of DV. The focus for this training was on adult survivors of DV, but there is a great deal more information on more specific aspects of this issue, including the impacts on children exposed to batterers, abuse against seniors and people with disabilities, the prevention of violence against women and children, DV in same-sex or same-gender relationships, dynamics for specific populations, etc. Because DV is an oppression issue, it’s really hard to talk about adequately without also talking about other forms of oppression (like, racism, classism, homophobia, sexism) – but these issues are themselves enormous topics and giving them short-shrift doesn’t do them justice; that said, we’ll be sure to weave in information the best we can in the time we have.
2. Whenever we’re talking about violence and trauma we know that there are survivors in the room – whether that’s people who’ve been hurt or controlled in an intimate relationship, or those who grew up in a home where there was DV. Everyone was encouraged to take good care of themselves throughout the training, knowing that this information can be hard to talk about. Those who don’t identify as survivors were reminded to keep respect for survivors in the forefront of their minds as we talk about this issue.
3. The training session (and this blog post) will use gendered pronouns – batterers/abusers will be referred to as “he/him” and victims/survivors as “she/her.” The main reason for using gendered pronouns today is that in the vast majority of DV cases it is a man who is battering a woman. However, DV happens at roughly equal rates in same-sex and same-gender relationships as it does in heterosexual relationships, and of course there are cases where it is a woman who is abusing a man. The use of gendered pronouns is in no way meant to minimize, ignore, disregard, or otherwise silence the experience of those who are / have survived DV where these pronouns don’t fit.
We started with a brief look at the prevalence of DV via some statistics: To see a sample of some statistics about Domestic Violence prevalence, click on the link: Domestic Violence Statistics For additional statistics, you can click here http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/Children_and_Families/DomesticViolence.pdf
A few of the Myths & Facts about Domestic Violence that were discussed are:
Myth: I heard that Domestic Violence isn’t very common. Fact: The truth is that 1 out of every 7 women ages 18-64 was physically abused by an intimate partner in the Multnomah County in the past year (Multnomah County Health Department, 2000).
Myth: I heard that domestic violence only happens in low-income families. Fact: The truth is that domestic violence happens in all kinds of families: rich and poor; urban, suburban, and rural; in sexual and gender minority communities; in every part of the country; in every racial and age group.
Myth: I heard that physical violence usually happens only once or twice in a relationship. Fact: The truth is that most abuse happens over and over again – the violence gets more frequent and more severe over time.
Myth: I heard that some women’s behavior justifies or provokes being abused by their partner. Fact: The truth is there’s no justification for abusing one’s partner, and using violence, power, and control is a choice. Abusers often try to justify or excuse their abusive behavior – frequently through blaming the victim or refusing to take any personal accountability. This myth perpetuates the same victim blaming, and fails to hold abusers accountable for their actions and their choices.
Myth: I heard that domestic violence doesn’t have a big effect on kids, or that if a child doesn’t see the violence they won’t be affected by it. Fact: The truth is that domestic violence harms children even if they aren’t the target of the violence, and they can hear and see the effects in has on their home and on their mom. They live in that emotional climate and can feel the tension. Also, the presence of DV in the home can be a risk factor for child abuse.
Myth: I heard that kids who witness domestic violence need intensive mental health services. Fact: The truth is that the effects of witnessing domestic violence vary from child to child based on their experience. Some factors that might shape their reactions include the length and severity of the abuse, if the child was abused directly, what kind of support system the child has, and the child’s personal resiliency.
Myth: I heard that women in abusive relationships are bad moms – they harm the children by staying, and inflict another kind of harm by leaving. Fact: The truth is that often women make decisions about staying and leaving based on what they perceive to be in their children’s best interest. The children’s experience is often central to the mom’s decision-making.
Myth: I heard that batterers lose control and can’t contain their anger. Fact: The truth is that most batterers are in control of their anger and violence, and they make calculated decisions about who they target, when, and how. Samantha provided a great example: let’s say a batterer is being abusive and breaking and smashing things in the home – it may look and feel to the victim that he is ‘out of control’ and ‘in a fit of rage’, but often it’s the victim’s belongings that are being destroyed and targeted. Batterers are in control and making choices about what they’re destroying, and they generally aren’t smashing their own things; rather they often destroy items that have sentimental value to the victim.
Defining Domestic Violence:
“Domestic Violence is the systematic use of physical, sexual, economic and/ or emotional abuse tactics to gain and maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.”
We looked at this definition more closely by breaking it apart and defining different parts of the definition. The word systematic suggests that the violence is often planned, patterned and encompasses a whole host of tactics. DV is not something that just happens one time in one way. The abuse can take several forms, as the definition describes – it could be physical, sexual, financial, and/or emotional. Survivors may experience abuse from (or, batterers may employ tactics from) one or more of these abuse categories; however, emotional abuse (including verbal and psychological abuse) is always present. A batterer may not be overtly physically abusive (though often the threat of violence is present), but the coercive control is what he’s using to be abusive. Gaining and maintaining power and control was stressed throughout the training as the underlining component of, and ultimately the goal for, perpetrators of DV.
Some examples of the different types of abuse: Since abusers may use many types of tactics to exert power and control over their partners, and because some of these tactics can be more subtle than others, we spent a little time talking through some examples that perpetrators may use in each of the four categories listed above. We also focused on how issues of oppression and identity may impact the tactics used against a victim, and talked about abuse tactics in other categories (ie:, spiritual abuse, reproductive abuse).
Some Effects of Domestic Violence on Adult Survivors: We next spent time talking about how these forms of abuse might impact survivors, learning that there are many negative impacts of this type of abuse, violence, and control, including: poverty, homelessness, physical injuries, disability, hearing loss / vision loss, TBI (traumatic brain injury), ruined credit, spotty work history, evictions, debt, feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth, PTSD, STIs (including HIV/AIDS), unwanted pregnancies, miscarriage, physical and chronic pain, fear of being blamed and judged, not knowing who to trust, anxiety, depression, isolation, feelings of shame and embarrassment, and feeling that they are to blame for the abuse they’ve suffered.
Resources and Options for Victims / Survivors: Having learned what DV is, what forms it might take, and how it may impact survivors, we were eager to learn about what options and resources are available locally, both for those surviving DV themselves, and for friends, family, co-workers, and volunteers who want to learn more about how they can help.
A few options for victims to consider- -exploring whether a Restraining/ Stalking/EPPDAPA Order might help increase safety -finding out about DV Shelters -calling one of the DV Hotlines: *Home Free’s Hotline- 503-771-5503 * Portland Women’s Crisis Line (24hrs/7days)- 503-235-5333 * UNICA’s Spanish-language hotline – 503-232-4448 * National DV Hotline (24hrs/7days) -1-800-799-SAFE (7233) -Support groups (for children, teens, adults – free!) -Culturally Specific services and resources -Safety Planning -Advocacy -Police based intervention (DVRU/DVERT) -Gateway Center- drop in center (102nd and E. Burnside)
Click here for a list of local resources: FVCC Resource list.2013
As mentioned previously, survivors of domestic violence are the best judge of their safety – therefore, resources should always be presented as options; that way she can make the right decisions and choices for her unique situation.
Basics of Being Supportive: Samantha also covered some suggestions on how to support those in your life who are victims of domestic violence. Please see this link to read more about the do’s and don’ts of supporting survivors: http://www.thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/
Posted by guest blogger: Kate Russell