Domestic violence; end it now

  • Published
  • By Mark Johnson
  • Family Advocacy Outreach Manager
For all of us working in Family Advocacy, every month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. However, October is set aside for us to raise the general public's awareness of this devastating and pervasive problem.

While the term "domestic violence" conjures various graphic images for most of us, the Department of Defense provides very specific definitions for such terms:

The broader term "domestic abuse" is defined as a pattern of behavior resulting in physical, emotional or psychological abuse, economic control, or interference with personal liberty that is directed towards a person of the opposite sex.

The victim can be a current or former spouse, a person with whom the abuser shares a child in common, or a current or former intimate partner with whom the abuser shares or has shared a common domicile.

Domestic Violence is an offense under the UCMJ, United States Code, and/or state law that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence against a person of the opposite sex.

There is a fairly predictable pattern of behavior in relationships where domestic violence occurs. Dubbed the "cycle of violence", the pattern consists of three phases:

· Tension building phase: The abuser exerts increasing control over the victim, perhaps limiting money, taking the cell phone or disconnecting the Internet.
· Crisis phase: Serious physical, emotional or sexual abuse occurs.
· Honeymoon phase: The abuser expresses remorse, agrees to go to counseling. The abuser may increase isolation out of fear the victim will report the incident. The abuser and victim may tend to minimize the incident over time. They may cancel counseling appointments once things are going smoothly, thus perpetuating the cycle.

There are many reasons victims stay in abusive relationships including limited financial resources, low self esteem, religious or cultural influences, just to name a few. There is often a very real danger of physical harm from the abuser at every phase. In fact, 75 percent of domestic violence homicides occur after the victim leaves the abuser.

You may think there's nothing you can do to prevent domestic violence, but you'd be wrong. You may think domestic violence is a private matter and that you'd be interfering or meddling if you reported it or tried to intervene, but you'd be wrong again. Domestic violence is a crime, and it's a problem we can all play a part in preventing.

Taking a "zero tolerance" attitude is perhaps the most effective prevention method. The goal of most domestic violence is power and control, and if the abuser gets the clear message that threatening or violent behavior will not be tolerated, they're much less likely to perpetrate further violence. If we all take a "not in my neighborhood--not on my base" attitude we can drastically reduce the incidence of domestic violence.

How can Team Sheppard members adopt this attitude? First, report all incidents of domestic abuse. All military members and DoD civilian employees and contractors are required to report suspected domestic violence. Call 676-2271 to make a report, or to discuss a situation that concerns you.

Second, take a stand with neighbors, friends and coworkers that domestic violence is unacceptable.

Lastly, become aware of the available resources so victims can be empowered to get the help they need. Family Advocacy provides preventive programs and services such as the New Parent Support Program, Anger Management, parenting classes, a well-stocked resource library and much more.

For more information on domestic violence and how you can help prevent it, contact the Chattler Family Advocacy Center at 676-2271.