Answer: Children are negatively impacted by domestic violence, even if they are not present during the violence. They may hear the violence from their rooms, witness the aftermath through physical injuries and broken possessions, be used as a tool by the abuser, or become homeless when a parent leaves. They may also suffer abuse at the hands of the abuser. Research shows that children who witness domestic violence show more anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, anger, and temperament problems than children who do not witness violence in the home. The trauma they experience can affect their development into adulthood.
Center for Domestic Peace prioritizes serving survivors of domestic violence with children, and has tailored our services to help children heal from the trauma they have experienced. Our housing programs offer special services for children and their parents, including children’s play activities, art groups, parenting tips and education, domestic violence counseling, childcare, immediate links and enrollment to local schools, and referrals for other community-based children’s services.
Answer: A victim of domestic violence stays for a variety of complex reasons – the most important being to keep herself and her children safe. She may be terrified that her abuser will become more violent if she leaves, that he will try to take the children, and that she can’t make it on her own. He may have threatened her life if she does leave. She may believe that divorce is wrong, that the violence is her fault, that she can change his behavior, that she can stop the abuse, or that the violence is temporary. She may be experiencing pressure from her family and/or her religious or cultural community members. Since abusers often isolate victims, she might feel cut off from any social support or resources, and she may lack the financial means to support herself and her children. She may want the abuse to end, but not the relationship, or she may hold a belief system that she lacks self-worth without a relationship. But rather than focusing solely on the victim’s behavior, we should be asking, “Why does he abuse?”
It is important to note that men can also be victims of domestic violence, and that domestic violence happens in same sex relationships as well.
Answer: Listen to and believe the individual. Tell the individual, “The abuse is not your fault. You are not alone, and help is available.” Let the individual know that without intervention, abuse often escalates in frequency and severity over time. Seek expert assistance. Make referrals only to specialized domestic violence programs, not to couples counseling. Help the individual find a shelter, a safe home, or advocacy resources that offer protection.
Answer: Many people have alcohol and/or drug problems but are not violent. Similarly, many abusers are not substance abusers. How people behave when they are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs depends on a complex combination of personal, social, physical, and emotional factors. And like many other kinds of behavior, alcohol or drug-affected behavior patterns are culturally learned.
However, researchers have found that drug and alcohol use often occur prior to domestic violence, and women who are substance abusers are more likely to be victimized.
In our culture, many leisure and social events involve heavy drinking, which can unfortunately contribute and/or lead to conflicts ending in violence. Furthermore, many people in troubled situations – such as domestic violence – use alcohol or drugs as a way to avoid facing their problem. It is often easier to blame an alcohol or drug abuse problem than to admit that you or your partner is openly, soberly violent. Episodes of problem drinking and incidents of domestic violence often occur separately and must be treated as two distinct issues. Neither alcoholism nor drug abuse can explain or excuse domestic violence.
Answer: Domestic violence occurs at all levels of society, in all classes and communities, regardless of social, economic, or cultural backgrounds. Researchers and service providers have found, however, that economic and social factors can have a significant impact on how people respond to violent incidents and what kind of help they seek. Affluent people can usually afford private help – doctors, lawyers, and counselors – while people with fewer financial resources (i.e., those belonging to a lower economic class or a minority group) tend to call the police or other public agencies. In addition, research has shown that individuals from minority groups are often arrested at disproportionate rates, including women who are wrongly arrested for acts of self-defense. Law enforcement and other public agencies are often the primary source of statistics on domestic violence, and consequently, lower class and minority communities tend to be overrepresented in those figures, creating a distorted image of the problem.
Answer: National statistics demonstrate that the majority of adult victims of domestic violence are current or former wives, girlfriends, or lovers of the abuser. The exception to these findings is in the area of spousal homicide, where victims are equally male and female. However, studies indicate that at least half of the male victims of domestic violence homicide are killed by their partners in self-defense after a history of abuse.
Over the last two years, approx. 7% of service users in our Legal Systems Advocacy Program have been men. Men access our services in the same manner that women do (via our 24 hour hotlines, as walk-ins requesting services, through referrals from police departments, via medical sites, and through other community locations). As appropriate, men receive the same services that women do, including: legal advocacy, court accompaniment, counseling services, and crisis intervention.
Answer: While an economic downturn and the accompanying stress it can raise do not cause domestic violence, they can contribute to intensifying domestic violence where it already exists. For example, there may be more opportunity for abuse when unemployed couples interact more frequently and have more challenges to resolve. National statistics cite that domestic violence is more than three times as likely to occur when couples are experiencing high levels of financial strain, as opposed to when they are experiencing low levels. Furthermore, a weak economy limits options for survivors to seek safety or escape, find a job, and become financially independent of abusers.
Center for Domestic Peace has incorporated economic empowerment activities into programs throughout the organization, and in particular at our transitional housing program Second Step, in order to help survivors become economically self-sufficient and independent. Second Step has had a high success rate in improving participants’ income and ability to secure permanent housing upon exit.