Domestic Abuse: Is It As Easy as Walking Away

“Why do they stay, they can leave anytime they want”… This is a quick accusation that someone assumes when they hear about domestic violence cases or stories. But even though the accusation stated above is thought by many, its far from the truth. Domestic Violence in this country is growing at an alarming rate. Also, in the past, domestic violence was a dark little secret that really wasn’t discussed out in the open. However, times have changed and domestic violence has been out in the forefront of movements and campaigns, but still happening more and more everyday affecting not only the victim but the family unit as a whole.

The domestic violence movement has a long history, although it picked up steam with the advent of the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1971, Erin Pizzey opened the first battered women’s shelter in Chiswick, England. The first shelters in the United States opened their doors in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Pasadena, California; and Phoenix, Arizona, in 1972. Soon thereafter, a shelter opened in Boston, Massachusetts, and Casa Myrna Vasquez, also in Boston, opened its doors as the first shelter providing services primarily for Latinas. The first support group for battered lesbians began in Seattle in 1985. Awareness and services have increased exponentially over the past three decades, and as of September 2007, a total of 1,949 domestic violence programs were operational across the United States.

When it come to falling in love with an abuser, domestic violence doesn’t always happen right out of the gate; the abuser waits for the perfect time to strike. Domestic violence victim, Leslie Morgan Steiner, explains this type of love (which she calls “Crazy Love”) as if walking into a carefully laid, physical, financial, and psychological trap. She then goes on to talk about the certain “Steps” that a domestic abuser takes in order to be able to abuse their loved ones. Step One, during the beginning stages of the relationship the abuser creates a safe environment in order to drop the victims guard down. Step 2, the abuser isolates the victim so that they do not have quick access to help. Step 3, the abuser then starts introducing the threat of violence slowly so the victim does not leave right away; increasing the threat every time. Step 4, lastly the abuser gets so harmful that the end result leads to death of the victim. It’s crazy to know that this could happen or affect anyone; your neighbor, your friend, and even your children.

Domestic violence affects none more so than the children involved in these relationships and by no fault of their own. Children try to protect their parent by refusing to leave the parents side, getting in the middle of any abusive event, calling for help from someone around or nearby, or drawing attention to themselves by using bad behavior. They may want to be responsible for “fixing” their family by being perfect or caring for younger siblings. Some children take sides with the abusive adult and become disrespectful, aggressive, or threatening to their nonviolent parent. Children who live with domestic violence learn the wrong lessons about relationships with a significant other. While some children may respond by avoiding abuse in their own relationships as they grow older, others may repeat what they have seen in abusive relationships with their own peers or partners. They may learn that it is alright to take control of another person’s behavior or feelings, or to use violence to get what they want. They may learn that harmful behavior is somehow part of being close or being in loved.

Domestic violence is the attempt by one person to obtain control or power over their intimate partner through psychological, physical, or sexual abuse. Victims of domestic abuse are familiar with what is called the “rollercoaster of violence,” which consists of three stages that victims of domestic violence continually cycle through the harms of their batterers.

Although there is no specific way to identify a batterer before the abuse starts, the following are some common warning signs to be aware of in a relationship: extreme possessiveness and jealousy, the need for total control, rigid stereotypical views on gender roles, isolation from friends and family, economic control, extreme insecurity regarding the self or the relationship, and constantly checking up on or questioning the other’s whereabouts. Similarly, there is no way to identify a victim prior to their abuse because this form of violence is pervasive in all cultures, faiths, educational levels, income levels, and sexual orientations. The domestic violence movement, with the guidance of the women’s movement, has made many strides toward improving the criminal justice system’s response to the crime of domestic abuse; but their is still much work to be done when it comes to stopping domestic abuse.