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Experts: Cycle of domestic violence must be broken

Experts: Cycle of domestic violence must be broken

May 6th, 2012 in News

Sometimes the person you fall in love with is not the person you thought they were at all.

Sometimes, the issue is small, and a compromise can be made. But for some, tension begins to build, tempers flare and eventually violence occurs.

Relationships involving domestic violence start the way many healthy relationships do, said Pam Otto, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Rape and Abuse Crisis Services (RACS) in Jefferson City.

For the abuser, this is all about power and control issues, she said. And abuse does not always take the form of violence. It can be isolation, emotional or verbal abuse, sexual assaults. Domestic violence takes many forms.

There is a cycle of violence that is frequently discussed with clients at the shelter and with those who seek counseling services, Otto said.

The first phase is tension building and often occurs after a stressful or upsetting event. During this phase, something else happens, and anger and blaming begin to be displayed by the abuser. Tensions continue to build until something happens that causes it to break.

Everyone is walking on eggshells, and then things still get worse. And then violence occurs; that is the battering phase, Otto said. The first time it might be calling names, emotional or verbal abuse and not an actual violent event. It can be more violent like a slap or a punch. And then the tension is broken because the violence is expended.

The honeymoon phase lasts a varying amount of time. Some say it lasts a few days; for others, it can be weeks or months. Some victims say they never get a break in the violence or threats of violence.

Each time you go through the cycle, the violence is more drastic, and it can get so extreme that the abuser kills the victim or the victim kills the abuser, Otto said.

It s a pattern that s borne out in statistics.

Almost 33 percent of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In nearly 80 percent of all intimate partner homicides, no matter which person was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder took place.

Domestic violence: a growing problem

The prevalence of domestic abuse is a daily problem facing authorities with the Cole County Sheriff s Department and the Jefferson City Police Department.

If we do not get a domestic violence call every day, then it is an odd day, Sheriff Greg White said.

Jim Clardy, executive director of RACS, said they have seen an increase in domestic violence in five of the eight counties served by RACS.

The faltering economy, natural disasters, financial concerns and other issues have been cited as reasons for the increase.

Clardy noted there was a decline in Cole County domestic violence in 2011, but there has already been an increase in 2012.

Even with increased reports of abuse, there is a growing fear that domestic violence is still vastly unreported.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates about 25 percent of all physical assaults, 20 percent of all rapes, and 50 percent of all stalking cases against females by their significant others are reported to the police.

Why doesn t the victim just leave?

Clardy said there are many reasons why a woman leaves, and also many why she may stay in an abusive relationship.

While we do not know the reasons and cannot always say there is a pattern, it may be financial, Clardy said. The abuser may be the bread winner, or have such control over the victim that they have no access to money.

As much as children may be the reason a woman ultimately decides to leave the abuser, they are also a reason why she may stay, to ensure they can financially be taken care of.

For many women, leaving an abuser can be a recurring situation.

Statistics reveal a woman may leave an abuser seven times. It may be seven different relationships or the same one seven times, Otto said.

If a woman grew up in a home where violence was a part of the relationships around her, she may think it is OK, Otto said. She may feel trapped, controlled or isolated. Some are afraid that the abuser will keep following them.

But once a domestic violence call is made, White said there are steps officers must take, no matter what the victim s wishes may be.

If violence occurs, the primary physical aggressor goes to jail, White said. We are going to arrest that person because we cannot allow it (the violence) to continue.

JCPD Capt. Doug Shoemaker said there are some homes they are called to frequently because of domestic violence issues.

Sometimes things calm down, and they want to believe the abuser has changed, he said. Other times, they really think they are a good person, and for some it is just the cycle they are stuck in.

We really try our best to give them information and offer resources, but what they chose to do with that is up to them. We cannot make a person leave someone. We can and do arrest the physical aggressor, but that is not to say that the victim will not allow them back.

The potential for violence doesn t only affect the aggressor and the victim. Domestic violence cases are often viewed as the most dangerous types for officers. The police department s policy is to send two units to all domestic violence calls.

We do not know what we are walking into, Shoemaker said. In some cases, though we have not faced it here, a domestic call is set up to ambush police. The abuser or victim may get angry and turn their anger to the officer and assault an officer. You just never know what will happen.

Before leaving the scene of the call, officers with the police and sheriff s departments say they provide the victims with a list of resources, including RACS and a domestic violence court advocate.

Understanding the cycle of violence

Clardy said his staff encourages the victim to speak with a counselor so they can begin to understand the cycle of violence, the implications of the sexual, emotional, verbal and physical abuse they may be enduring and begin to develop a safe plan, if needed.

There does seem to be an increase in violent crime overall in the warmer, summer months and during holidays, said Shoemaker, the JCPD s spokesman.

While it is not always present or doesn t always have a role in a domestic dispute, alcohol and controlled substances typically have some role, White said.

Virtually most of the calls (domestic violence) we get do involve alcohol or a controlled substance, White said. When adding drugs and alcohol to an already stressful or tense situation, things seem to escalate.

While drugs and alcohol can play a role in abuse, it is important to note that abuse is a learned behavior, Otto said.

Abuse cannot be explained away through drugs and alcohol; it is a learned behavior, Otto said. Maybe the drugs and alcohol make an already abusive person more likely to do so.

Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners or children when they get older.

And in some cities, authorities are seeing the domestic violence become more prevalent at a younger age through teen dating violence.

But in a healthy relationship, there is no room for violence or abuse of any kind, counselors and officers say.

In a loving relationship, there is no place for violence, and people need to remember that, White said. It has to be one of the hardest things to experience to have a person say, I love you and then beat you to the floor. That is not love, and it makes no sense.

Over time, many victims who have gone through counseling do look back and wonder how the abuser could haved claim love while inflicting hurt, Otto said.

Expect respect is my tag line, Otto said. If each person expects to be treated with respect and recognize when they are not being treated respectfully and get out of the situation, it can go a long way in a lot of lives.