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