Domestic violence cases often unreported

June 9, 2013 • Local News

Despite changes in laws, domestic abuse remains a problem nationwide.

In Roswell, the police responded to 32 domestic c[auth] ases during the week of May 31 to June 7. The cases ran the gamut from harassment, threats, verbal domestics, assault, aggravated assault, battery and aggravated battery of a household member to kidnapping.

During the same seven-day period, eight were arrested on charges of battery of a household member. Some of those arrested are the subject of the previously noted incident reports. Others are not, and one person was charged twice for the offense, representing two separate incidents.

The reports and arrests present only the tip of the iceberg. National statistics indicate that 72 percent of abuse cases go unreported. This suggests of the 38 reports/arrests, as many as 110 incidents occurred during the week May 31 through June 7.

In 2004, The Journal of Epidemiology said the under-reporting of domestic violence was the result of social silence, tolerance, and inhibition that still exists against the victims of violence. It is more often neighbors, rather than friends, family or the abused themselves, who contact the police.

Domestic cases do not only include violence from one spouse upon another. It may be a child against a parent, sibling or other family members, or it may be a former partner or an ex-boy/girlfriend.

Domestic calls rank second, exceeded only by traffic stops, in hazards for law enforcement personnel. In each case, the officer has no idea what he or she might face.

One of the questions most people ask is: why the victim stays in an abusive relationship?

Capt. Quintinn McShan, who acted as an expert witness during the Victorial Velasquez-Arias homicide trial, listed a number of different reasons, such as economic, cultural, religious and familial.

He said the victim often experiences many societal pressures to stay. One example is religion, “Nearly all religions have an emphasis on couples staying together. … Many religions have recently come a long way … (in) understanding the dynamics of family violence and the realization that it is unhealthy for some couples to stay together.

“Even so, there are still others that see divorce as a grave offense against the natural law and immoral. Some continue to preach that the wife needs to be subservient to the male and failure to do so is sinful.”

Families also have their influence, “The bonds of the family unit are strong even in the face of dysfunction and violence. Familial bonds and blood ties are hard to break. No one wants to admit, much less tell their parents and other close family about being abused,” McShan said.

In addition, many battered victims say the batterer is a good parent.

“They do not want their children to be raised in a one-parent family. Some victims truly feel the children need that father/mother role model in their lives. They are willing to suffer themselves ‘for the sake of the children.’

“Others will deceive themselves in to believing they will leave the abuser when the children are a little older. Unfortunately for some next year never comes.”

Economics is also a factor. Money can create pressure for both the victiim and abuser. The job and pressures of the job may be the excuse that the batterers will use when they strike out. McShan added: “The bread winner is often the abuser, and even when they are not, they often control the money that their spouse makes.”

He spoke of cases where the batterer forced the victim to sign over deeds and titles (to property) to the abuser or the abuser’s family.

“The abuser may demand and receive all the income made by the victim and then dole out an allowance. Some will not allow the victim to work or educate themselves as a means of keeping the victim totally dependent. The result is the victim who does leave may find themselves free, but homeless with no means of support or marketable skills,” McShan said.

Linked to family, religion and culture is shame — the personal shame the victim feels.

“The victim may be embarrassed to tell anyone or even admit to themselves that they are abused. There is a stigma of being battered and having people, especially people the victim knows, being aware of the victim’s situation can be stressful,” said McShan.

He added that the main and overriding reason that victims stay is fear, “Fear is a great motivator. If the fear is strong enough it will cause the victim to do anything to keep their fears from being realized. The victim often experiences fear of many things and often that fear is more than justified.

“The victim fears the physical pain or the emotional trauma the abuser can cause. The very threat of the abuse is usually enough to get the victim to comply with the abuser’s wishes. The victim often fears not only the abuser but the abuser’s family and associates.”

There is also a sense of failure and disgrace associated with being a victim, which keeps a person frozen in a bad relationship.

“Many victims work in the public arena (government, educational systems, law enforcement, politics, sports, and entertainment) where the scandal attached to domestic violence could hurt or even cost them their careers,” McShan said.

He listed other psychological factors that keep the victim immobilized.

“No one wants to start over. No one wants to be alone. This fear is compounded by abusers who tell the victim that no one else would have them often enough and long enough that the victim begins to believe them. No one wants to admit to failing in anything much less a love affair,” McShan said.

The result of verbal abuse is the erosion of personality and self-esteem. He explained: “Self-esteem is a perishable commodity. It can be worn down by years of negative comments. … an abuser knows the victim and what buttons or triggers to push. One tactic often employed is isolation. The abuser isolates the victim from friends and family.

“This not only removes the victim’s support system it removes potential witnesses and makes the victim even more dependent on the abuser.”

Another very real fear is the increased threat of violence after a person has left the abuser. More people are killed after a break-up than during the relationship.

“The most dangerous time for a victim is when they leave,” McShan said. “The abuser has lost power and control over the victim, and some will do anything including the use of force and violence to regain control. There often comes a time when the abusers have to admit to themselves that they are losing the victim. It is then that many decide to strike (if I can ‘t have her no one can).

“Usually the first six months of a separation are the most dangerous.”

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