October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence in our society is insidious. It could be viewed as the silent killer, with the victim keeping silent and bearing the abuser’s shame. “The victims of domestic violence are hidden,” said Michelle Royer, executive director of Roswell Refuge.
Domestic violence is the means by which one person gains control over another. The onset is often subtle, starting with criticism and humiliation, name-calling and putdowns. The victim adjusts his/her behavior to please, and eventually becomes isolated, avoiding situations of public embarrassment. “It robs them of joy, the joy of life,” Royer said.
As the behavior spirals, the partner may start controlling communication with family or friends. He or she may insist that ties are severed.
The victim makes excuses to friends and family and to her- or himself. Violence erupts at different phases of the relationship. The victim hides bruises and makes excuses. The abuser can withhold financial support, stop or prevent a partner from getting or keeping a job or cut the victim off from loved ones. The goal is always intimidation and maintenance of power.
Criminal violence includes physical assault, sexual assault, harassment and stalking. Violence takes many forms. It can happen all the time or every once in a while. However, if it happens once, odds are it will happen again. “These behaviors almost always escalate,” said Royer.
“Statistics indicate that domestic violence crosses all socio-economic groups,” Royer said. Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although men can be abused, most victims are women. The partners may be married or not; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website (ncadv.org/) provides a list of help available across the country. It shows the violence wheel that illustrates the cycle of abuse. The NCADV maintains a national 24-hour hot line: 1-800-799-SAFE or at TheHotline.org.
The site includes advice on Internet safety. It has a failsafe, which allows the viewer a fast log-out, so one’s spouse or partner cannot see what is on the screen. They provide information about protecting one’s identity, not to avoid identity theft, but because so many victims have to vanish to ensure the safety of themselves and their children. The NCADV also has a unique grant program, called Face-to-Face, developed for victims who need reconstructive surgery. The surgery is not for reasons of vanity. It indicates of the severity of the survivor’s injuries. Not all people survive.
In his Oct. 1 proclamation, President Barak Obama noted, “Despite considerable progress in reducing domestic violence, an average of three women in the United States lose their lives every day.”
For Roswell residents, help is a little closer to home. The Roswell Refuge has a hotline, 627-8361. “Our shelter has a 24-hour crisis line for domestic violence. It is always manned. We always have staff at the shelter 24/7, 365 days a year. We never close.” said Royer.