DV awareness, are we really aware?

As part of my small but determined contribution to Domestic Violence Awareness month I’d like to say a few things. First having an “awareness month” for anything evokes mixed feelings for me. No one can argue against dedicating time to increase awareness of a social issue and it provides opportunities for survivors to be heard. But what, I wonder, does it really accomplish? Do people carry that awareness with them for the rest of the year? Does the help increase additional funding and programs?  Does the publicity really illuminate the experience and challenges of what families of D.V. face?  Are people told that every day women are turned away from shelter because there are no beds? Do people know that women, and even children turn to prostitution as a way to escape their abuser? Or how many women turn to alcohol and/or drugs to escape the reality of their miserable lives, to quell the fear that quakes in their stomach most of the day? And how about the long terms effects of living in a heightened state of fight or flight; how that changes your brain functions and disrupts serotonin and cortisol? There is a phenomenon known as complex PTSD, which is the result of long term regular exposure to trauma. How about the kids who grow up under these conditions? These kids brains are forming and developing under these conditions what does this say for their prognosis as adults? And given that fact how many of these children go on to become abused or abusers themselves?

There is a lot of emphasis put on getting women out of abusive relationships, or preventing them from getting into them in the first place (most of which are ineffective), but there is little long term support for women and children to assist them with the ongoing issues that linger even after leaving the relationship. And what about then abusers? They are basically lumped into one category…abusers, and yet there are different types of abuse. The Coercive control type is probably the most dangerous and the most difficult to treat. Men who use coercive control are the horror stories we hear about not letting their partner work, attend school, go out with friends and tend to more physically violent and very clever in their skills of manipulation. Abusers are dealt with via the criminal justice system, they generally don’t do much time and  they are usually mandated to attend some kind of “anger management” program. It takes more than a few weeks of anger management for someone to change a lifetimes worth of conditioning and damage that makes someone capable of hurting the people they love. violent behavior is often a mental health issue and needs to be treated as such.  Just as we have to listen to victims to understand their needs, we have to listen to perpetrators to understand why they do what they do, to begin to understand ways to effectively intervene. I sincerely believe that, with some possible exceptions, most abusers don’t want to be abusers, just like most addicts don’t want to be addicts, but there are some behaviors that are formed early on in life that effect us in ways we can’t control…until we learn differently. There are ways to do this, but they are not quick fixes, they don’t come in a pill and they are not applied, or even taught to most service providers. There are a lot of things that are changing in the world. 20 years ago a woman would have to press charges against her abuser or he was off the hook, there were fewer resources for help for families experiencing violence, and women were less likely to come forward and ask for help.
We have moved forward in so many areas of response to DV and that is a wonderful thing, but we need to continue to move forward, to always be open to examining new interventions and solutions to problems, and to not be afraid to try something new. This is the kind of awareness I choose to focus on, to dig deep to look at the BIG picture and to tell it like it is, both what’s working and what’s not. And please remember abuse happens every minute of every day, don’t forget about it once October is past.

© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


About nanakoosa

Me...I am a trained Advocate and Counselor with 20 years experience working with Youth and Families. My most recent employment brought me to the field of Domestic and Sexual Violence Counseling and support. I myself am a Survivor of violence and have been on both side of the service desk, which provides for a unique, often conflicting, theoretical orientation. I am a regular blogger, journal keeper and story teller. My current focus is to give voice to the experiences of survivors, to shine some light in the dark corners of family life where all the spiders and creepy things hide. I also enjoy writing about my unconventional childhood in the tumultuous 60's and am dabbling in memoir writing. I have three wonderful children, two fabulous granddaughters and an assortment of pets. View all posts by nanakoosa

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