The Right Decisions Can Break The Cycle Of Violence

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Violence is about power and control and it is not always physical.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Time Out Domestic Violence Shelter volunteers spent about 30 minutes in a sometimes frustrating exercise that gave them renewed insight and understanding of the decision-making process of a domestic violence victim.

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Court Appointed Special Advocate and Time Out Domestic Violence Shelter volunteers have no choice as they pretend for a half an hour to be a battered woman trying to make decisions at the In Her Shoes Workshop.

Betty McEntire is a training coordinator at the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The interactive experience:

The several dozen attendees split into groups of two or three. One person was the ‘victim,' the others shadowed the victim's decisions at each station.

There were many stations including housing, court, wildcards, church and advocacy. The ‘shadows' had to restrain themselves from giving advice and questioning the victim's decisions.

For instance, one DV victim had a choice of moving to a different part of the city where her abuser could not find her or moving into a DV housing.

She chose housing, but the housing card asked what happens when the abuser calls and says he is sorry.

The victim could hang up or agree to meet.

The victims agree to meet choice, started the abuse cycle again.

In another instance, a woman went to her clergyman, who told her that her husband is the head of the household and that she must return to him.

McEntire said she sees a "more appropriate response" from "most" clergy.

At their request, she has taken the Walk in Her Shoes exercise to the congregations of six churches in the last month.

At the end of the Walk in Her Shoes exercise, volunteers commented that they did not like the "vicious circle," "getting to court and still not getting what was needed" and "not having better alternatives."

"As advocates and care givers, you want to take charge. Is it your life? No. How can I tell you what is best for your life? I may only be getting half the information," McEntire said.

In a DV situation the advocates' responsibility is to listen, then provide options.

"We don't give love enough credit when it comes to breaking the cycle of domestic violence. It is hard to stop loving," McEntire said.

The lie of words not hurting

An example of emotional abuse McEntire gave was a man who started out saying to his partner, ‘You're so pretty you don't need makeup,' to ‘I thought I told you not to wear makeup,' to ‘You look like a whore. Take that makeup off.'

Over time, the put-downs drive out self-esteem.

Intimidation is another way an abuser tries to win.

McEntire cited a case where the husband and wife faced each other in court. While the wife was testifying, he took off his rings and set them on the table.

She went screaming and crying out of the courtroom. The judge thought the wife was crazy.

"The message the wife got from her husband was, ‘I am going to beat you again'," McEntire said.

The two-hour training session gave Time Out volunteers a refresher in what it was like to stand in another's shoes and make life-altering decisions.

It helped CASA volunteers, who advocate for children in the courts and give them a voice, understand where a child's parents might be coming from, if domestic violence was part of their situation.

"The feedback I received was positive. CASAs came up to me and said they didn't realize that's what it felt like for a victim of domestic violence to wait in the hospital, wait at court, try to decide how to get to the store with hungry children in tow and no vehicle.

"The exercise encouraged us to do more trainings with CASA, Time Out, the (GIla County Family) Advocacy Center, even CPS (Child Protective Services). So, in January, CASA will sponsor a meth training and invite foster parents to be a part of it," said Katrisha Stuler, CASA manager for Northern Gila County.

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