Domestic violence: Help is available
Domestic Violence (DV), the abusive and controlling behavior of one partner toward the other, has existed in western culture ever since people started living together as couples. Only in the last 40 or 50 years have programs to raise awareness about domestic violence and support services for victims developed.
The first shelters for domestic violence victims in the United States were founded and run by women who often experienced DV themselves and who volunteered their time to help others. Over the years, the DV support prevention movement has not only provided safe places to stay for innumerable women and their children, but also raised awareness and educated the public.
We now know that one out of four women and one out of seven men in the United States experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In Utah, the statistics are even higher — one out of three women will be abused by a partner at some point in her life.
No group is excluded; victims and perpetrators come from all socioeconomic, religious, racial or cultural groups. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating; teenagers, adults or elderly.
Substance abuse and poverty, mental or physical disabilities, and social isolation are some of the factors that make DV more likely to occur, but it can happen in any kind of circumstance.
Abuse can encompass any type of violent or controlling behavior, from name-calling and threats, social isolation and control of money, to shoving, hair pulling, hitting or sexual assault. It can happen once in a while or every day. Many victims describe cycles of building tension, abuse, then calm phases in between, until the tension builds again and the next blow-up occurs. Perpetrators might claim they “lose control” and don’t know what they are doing, or even that the victim “made” them blow up by provoking them. Even if that were true, which it isn’t in the majority of cases, it is not an excuse to hurt another person.
Nobody deserves to be scared in his or her own home. No child should have to hear her parents yell threats at each other or see his dad beat up his mom. No woman or man should be forced to have sex. No woman should have to lie about her injuries for fear of retribution. And no one who does this to another person should get away with it.
Often, the question arises as to why a woman would stay in an abusive situation. While every situation is, of course, unique, many women talk about financial problems, concern for the welfare of children, pressure from family or church, and also the hope that the perpetrator might change and things will get better. Abusers are often very skilled at socially isolating their victims or making them feel crazy, so that many women don’t reach out for help for fear of being rejected or blamed. Leaving a violent situation is neither an easy choice, nor an easy thing to do, and every victim needs as much support and help as possible.
Seekhaven Family Resource Center, the domestic violence shelter in Moab, has helped victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking since 1990. Every year about 75 women and children find a safe place to stay and obtain support to create a better future for themselves. The shelter’s staff members help women find housing and employment, if necessary. They also provide outreach services and community education, and assist with protective orders.
Having worked in a domestic violence shelter for many years, I know that the staff does much more than that. They are often the first people in years who don’t judge or criticize the victim, who validate her experience and feelings and who make her feel like a worthwhile person again.
According to the Seekhaven website: “Domestic Violence is a serious crime. No one has the right to assault you, threaten you, or force you to have unwanted sexual contact. You have the right to be protected. If you are abused or threatened by a family member, partner or former partner, or sexually assaulted or stalked by anyone you can get help. If you are in danger, call 911. For non-emergency situations ... call 800-897-5465.”
- Antje Rath
- October 2014