The Abuse Is All About Control

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In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Roundup will feature a series of articles on the problem and issues relating to domestic violence. Our series will focus on the causes, consequences and victims of domestic violence and the impact on our community.

Part One

"Remember My Name"

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Payson and throughout the nation. On Thursday, community members will, once again, honor survivors and those who have lost their lives to domestic violence with a candlelight walk and vigil sponsored by the Time Out Shelter.

Someone is a victim of domestic violence every eight seconds in the country, and Arizona ranks third in the nation in domestic violence cases.

Violence, both physical and verbal, is a pervasive problem in Rim country. Payson Police Department and Gila County Sheriff's Office statistics report there were 128 arrests in 2002. So far this year, 128 people have been arrested on charges of disorderly conduct/ domestic violence.

Although 7 percent of domestic violence victims are men, the vast majority continue to be women. Eighty percent of homicides or injury to women is perpetrated by an intimate partner and each year the number of women hurt by an intimate partner exceeds stranger rapes, muggings and serious accidents combined.

The perceived sanctity of one's home is destroyed by statistics that show the home as often a dangerous place for women and children.

Gina Elliot, Program Director at the Time Out Shelter, is familiar with problems of domestic violence.

Elliot, herself a survivor of domestic violence, has worked on the front lines, assisting women and children in crisis for the last six years.

"Domestic violence is about power and control," Elliot said. "It is a learned behavior."

Elliot, and others who study perpetrators of abuse, say that contrary to a widely-held belief that domestic violence occurs when a person loses control, abusers know precisely what they are doing.

"A lot of people have the belief that drugs or alcohol are responsible for abusive behaviors, but these men are absolutely in control of what they are doing," Elliot said. "They don't beat their wives or verbally assault them at church, at the store or in public. They go home, shut the door, lock it and it begins. They are very much in control of what they are doing."

The Time Out Shelter is the only domestic violence shelter in a 100 mile radius. Its 16 beds are full most of the year.

"We are licensed for 16, but if it's an emergency, we don't turn people away," Elliot said.

Elliot says that over the last six years, she has not seen a decrease in domestic violence in Rim country, but has seen more women reaching out for help.

"A lot more women in the community are coming here for help and our outpatient services have grown," Elliot said.

The shelter provides educational classes and groups for women who can't or don't feel the need to stay at the shelter.

"A woman can live at home with an abusive husband and still seek services and have a safety plan in place that might save her life," Elliot said. "But

our classes are for anyone who wants to be educated on domestic violence."

One particular group that has a high turnout is called Rebuilding After Domestic Violence. This group teaches practical skills for women becoming independent, but it is also a place for emotional support and healing.

"Women who come to the shelter are scared," Elliot said. "When they come here, they see it is a home environment and that they are not alone. They meet peers -- women who have gone or who are going through the same thing."

Verbal, mental, emotional abuse

Other types of abuse often go unrecognized or are minimized by victims and perpetrators. Although a broken bone is more tangible, a broken spirit often goes unhealed and has long-lasting, damaging effects.

"I think it's the worst kind of abuse," Elliot said. "It's very hard to pin down for the victim that it is abuse -- there is a lot of lying and manipulation involved.

"A bruise will heal, will go away and you won't see it anymore. When you are verbally and emotionally abused on a daily basis, those wounds never heal completely."

Elliot said that emotionally and verbally abusive relationships are often the hardest to leave and the easiest to fall into and become part of.

"When you are told often enough that you are no good, you're fat, you're a loser -- you begin to believe it," Elliot said. "And you have no self-esteem left and nobody is telling you otherwise."

Strategies of the verbal abuser are also inspired by the need to control their victim.

The more off balance a perpetrator can make his victim, the more effective the abuse.

Abusers whose emotional state and responses are inconsistent from hour to hour give rise to a treacherous mine field for intimate partners and children. Women who have experienced verbal and emotional abuse often don't realize how stressful their environment was until they leave.

Elliot said that healing from emotional and verbal abuse is a long process that involves helping a victim rebuild her tattered self-esteem.

"The shelter staff tries to tell women that no matter what choices they make, they are their choices and they are OK," Elliot said. "It's OK to make mistakes, to feel things, to express emotion appropriately. We reiterate to them that we believe in them and they can recover. We don't choose for them -- we are here to support their choices."

The philosophy of the advocates at Time Out is, that by providing useful tools, a woman can empower herself. Coming from an environment of domination and control, telling someone what to do and how to do it only further victimizes her. Rebuilding self-esteem requires that a woman take back control and responsibility of her own life.

Why doesn't she just leave?

A commonly asked question by people who have never experienced or been educated on domestic violence is, ‘why doesn't she leave'?

"That question comes all the time and I see it as an opportunity to educate people," Elliot said. "There are so many reasons why women don't leave or return to abusive partners. They may be embarrassed and think it's their fault. They may believe the lies they are told, like, you'll never make it on your own, I'll take the kids, I'll take you to court and they will think you're crazy ... .

"Sometimes it's economic reasons," Elliot said. "Some of these women have never worked or have never been allowed to manage their own money."

Most often, Elliot says, women truly believe things will get better.

"They may truly love, or think they love, these men and they think it's going to get better," Elliot said. "But without intervention, things won't change. A victim can change her behavior, but abusers have learned how to do this and it's what works for them and until it quits working, they will continue."

Studies show that violence will escalate in an abusive relationship. Eighty percent of death and injury to women is perpetrated by an intimate partner. When a woman is ready to leave an abusive partner, that is also when she is in the most danger of being killed.

Forty-six people in Arizona lost their lives to domestic violence this year.

"I think that, often, they don't think they are going to die," Elliot said. "I don't think they believe these men will kill them."

The 46 and the thousands of others who have died as a result of domestic violence will be remembered during Thursday's candlelight march and vigil.

"We will meet in the parking lot of the First Southern Baptist Church on Bonita Street at 6 p.m.," Elliot said. " Candles will be available as well as glowsticks for young children. We will walk to town hall where we will have a small program. We'd like everybody in town to come."

Anyone in need of help, support or assistance, call the Time Out Shelter at 472-8007.

Am I a battered woman?

If you are in doubt about whether or not you are a battered woman, take the inventory below.

Did your partner ...

Sulk, refuse to talk?

Withdraw affection or sex to punish you?

Stomp out to punish you?

Scream, insult or swear at you?

Verbally pressure you to have sex?

Threaten punishment other than physical (withhold money, take away children)?

Threaten to leave?

Threaten to expose your sexual preference?

Prevent you from leaving or seeing certain people?

Intentionally interrupt your sleeping or eating?

Direct anger at or threaten pets?

Threaten to hit or throw something at you?

Throw, hit or kick something?

Drive recklessly to frighten you?

Direct anger at or threaten children?

Destroy your property?

Throw something at you?

Push, carry, restrain, grab, shove wrestle you?

Slap or spank you?

Bite or scratch you?

Throw you bodily?

Choke or strangle you?

Physically force sex on you?

Punch or kick you?

Burn you?

Kick or punch you in stomach when pregnant?

Beat you unconscious?

Threaten with knife, gun or other weapon?

Use any weapon against you?

If you answered yes to any of the items above, you may need to look at your relationship and find alternatives.

(From: Information for Women in Abusive Relationships, by The Family Violence Network)

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