Domestic abuse, also known as intimate partner violence or spousal abuse, is a growing problem within our communities, and it extends well beyond the victims and perpetrators. A sudden, violent outburst has the potential to ripple into life-altering ramifications, beginning within the lives of victims, their friends and family. It conclusively becomes detrimental to society as a whole.
Many people in Tom Green County and the surrounding areas know someone who has suffered through the pitfalls of domestic abuse; 1 in 4 adult women and 1 in 7 adult men in the United States have been subjected to it. Sadly, many of these situations can also involve children, and even family pets.
An estimated 30-60% of children who witness violence in the home suffer from an array of issues, such as neglect, malnutrition, poor grades, mental afflictions and even the risk of serious injury and/or death.
Furthermore, domestic violence is an infectious cycle that easily transfers down to children as facial characteristics or family heirlooms. Children who grow up in abusive environments are 3 to 4 times more likely to participate in one end or the other of an abusive relationship.
Most people would assume that domestic violence begins and ends within the homes of those involved, because of course, "it's none of our business".
None of us are required to play detective, or even care one way or the other. However, let's make no mistake about it, domestic abuse ultimately becomes everybody's business -- and everyone pays.
One third of the leading causes of homelessness among families is due to domestic abuse. Temporary/long-term affordable housing, supplemental nutritional assistance programs, medical expenses and counseling, as well as the manpower needed to supervise and operate these ventures, are subsequently billed to you. Annually, the combined expenses of domestic violence incidents placed upon medical and mental health care services is $5.8 billion, with the employers of affected parties respectively absorbing $2.5 billion in lost productivity.
The law enforcement and social workers required to babysit malcontents and victims, along with the legal proceedings, incarceration and CPS involvement, which usually follows, hits everyone in the pocketbooks as well.
For all the billions spent, little to no improvement is ever realized.
A greater sense of this epidemic may be considered, when one takes into account the fact that most domestic violence incidents are never reported. Victims suffer in silence as the perpetrators’ behavior escalates.
We can throw money, shelters, hotlines and other reactive measures at the problem, but what can be done on a proactive level? October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Becoming aware of a problem is the beginning. The next logical step is education, and finally prevention.
What (if anything) have we learned? What behaviors and personal attributes lay the foundation for toxic relationships, and furthermore, what predisposes one to the participation and patterns of consistent abusive lifestyles?
Many of us have known or lived by the couple who, for the life of them, cannot seem to go a day without feeding into each other's seemingly masochistic need for perpetual conflict and distress.
More often than not, they are more concerned about the content of their petty grievances than its consequences, overlooking the impact of their volatile and violent behavior which follows.
I can recall a night, in which a couple next door boisterously fought over a 5-hour period about text messages on the woman's phone. Another time, the couple tussled about and screamed at the top of their lungs regarding whatever lowlife at whichever alcohol-fueled vermin convention flirted with the female that night.
Upon limited casual contact with these two rodents, I learned of the regular jail stints the male had for various physical altercations with others. I also learned that the woman had six children with four different men.
During these regular spats the two freely broadcasted to the neighborhood, I could only think, “She knew what an insecure [expletive] he was when she met him, and he knew she had the mating habits of an alley cat when he met her.”
If after learning these golden qualities about each other, and thereupon resolving to live under the same roof, why does their behavior come as a surprise to either?
Neither partner sees themselves as being abused. For these two, the broken household items and bumps and bruises are simply collateral damage. After all, perpetrators of domestic abuse wouldn't become moved to such impulses if they truly didn't care that deeply about each other right?
These two will spend their entire marriage or courtship making each other's existence a living hell. A nightly screaming match or bout of sparring is just as commonplace to them as family dinner is to many of us: it doesn't always happen at a specific time, but it's imminent, and the night just isn't complete without it.
Interject children into such circumstances, many of which are well versed in the experiences of instability and revolving doors of ex-con father figures or drug-addicted female breeders; the situation becomes all the more disastrous.
While most children have their minds on their next school project or leisure activities with peers, the kids within these environments most likely worry about their next meal and the challenge of being dependent on mentally unstable adults.
With the greatest influences in these kids’ lives being the most virulent examples of human beings, is it any wonder how many of these children end up?
Oddly enough, one of the few times these couples ever find common ground on an issue is when they're railroading law enforcement's investigations into their behavior. The men become defensive or sometimes combative with police officers; the women lie, make excuses—usually under duress, or out of fear of losing their meal ticket or drug supply.
Naturally, to these people, domestic abuse is simply a coping mechanism, and within the bottom feeder culture of anti-police sentiment, it's considered far better to slowly destroy their children's lives as they wither away at their own, than to let the "po-po" get one up on them.
If you're a contributing half of a mutually abusive relationship, you'd do better for yourself by questioning your needy and desperate disposition.
What voids and/or attributes within yourself elicit the need for the self-sabotaging behaviors in a relationship rife with continual conflict? Has the familiarity with constant stress and altercation, oddly placed you in a comfort zone of which you'd readily leave had you the courage to do so?
Chances are, your insufferable personality and limited intellect has relegated you to the bottom of the barrel where you will meet like-minded individuals with low expectations and even lower senses of self-worth and responsibility.
This is a toxic mix, for the both of you. You were useless and ignorant when you were single; adding a bird of the same feather to your situation will only complicate things for yourself, as well as any children who have the misfortune of calling you "parents".
Keep in mind that just because your kids do not come from a broken home, that doesn't mean they don't live in one. Healthy relationships aren't the result of dumb luck or happenstance; they're established and nurtured by sensible adults with realistic outlooks and proficiencies in humane methods of conflict resolution.
As much as I believe you can't fix certain types of "stupid", you're at no loss for trying.
Begin slowly. Maybe start out with something as simple as basic hygiene, then move onto social graces and the acquisition of a skill or trade; as your quality of life improves, so will the quality of your personal and intimate relationships.
Your life is a result of your expectations and values, as is the company you keep.
"But, he really does love me ..."
While the aforementioned situation dealt with a couple's mutual participation in persistent abusive behavior, there is the more common occurrence of male-to-female domestic violence.
Though the victim vs. perpetrator lines are much more distinct in these situations, there are patterns and behaviors that many abused women exhibit and seem to enable and embolden abusive men.
This is not about blaming the victim; it's about recognizing warning signs of impending abuse, and most importantly, prevention thereof.
Between the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to 2012, the casualties of U.S. troops was 6,614. During that same period, the number of women who died as a result of domestic abuse was at 11,766.
If a handful of inconvenient truths can make a dent in such a statistic, all the better.
There is a type of woman who gravitates towards abusive men, more so with those who have established a pattern of abusive relationships over a period of time; almost all of us have known, or will know someone like this within our lifetime.
A young girl or woman may have good intentions from the start. Maybe she seeks out the "bad boy" for excitement, or some misguided challenge of "saving" a guy for her own needs of self-validation.
The men who they ultimately attract are under no delusions of who these women are, and where their vulnerabilities lie. Many of these men have honed their sociopathic manipulation methods to an art form.
Captivate, coerce and control: What begins as an average relationship with minor ups and downs will slowly evolve into a very structured and manipulative routine where the woman gradually finds herself becoming increasingly constricted within her daily activities. This can be achieved through guilt trips, such as questioning her devotion to her partner or duties as a suitable mate; at times -- usually as a last resort -- this shell of a man will threaten to take his own life, though with absolutely no intention on fulfilling such an invaluable service to society.
As her leash becomes shorter by the day, friends and family take notice, and sometimes speak out. At this time, the abuser may forbid her to associate with them for fear of reprisal, or simply the prospect of abandonment.
Something as innocent as a new job, or a college course can fall under the abuser's scrutiny. He sees her drive towards self-improvement as a selfish escape from serving his needs and satiating his insecurities.
A "better her" wouldn't need him, and he knows this. She needs to feel below him, helpless and lost without his guidance and watchful eye -- when in all reality, it's usually SHE who has the upper hand, and would emotionally crush him should she one day decide she deserved better.
Why then does she delude herself into believing he loves her, that he will change? Most of all, why has she crippled herself into adopting a damaged wreck of an individual while simultaneously convincing herself that she needs him?
Sometimes, she too, is just as damaged and needy as her abuser. Low self esteem may tell her she deserves what she gets; other times, it may be simply the fear of being alone, whereas the rare and momentary displays of affection she receives make her abuse all the more tolerable.
Concerns for the family's welfare or the opinions of her may come into play. The financial burden that may result in a break up could also be a factor. In any case, the battered woman who remains in this situation holds to her optimism in hopes that something, anything will someday get better.
It usually never gets better, and almost always gets worse.
We've seen her before: the bruised young woman who routinely seems to be "walking into doors" once a week, or the devoted punching bag who's hastily borrowing her partner's bail money from her family and friends before her wounds have scabbed over.
In the 1970s, a domestic violence researcher identified a common three-part cycle of violence among abusive relationships:
1. Tension - The warning signs manifest themselves, and escalate if ignored.
2. Violence - The abuse begins, and only ceases momentarily when advantageous to the abuser.
3. The Honeymoon - The relief of reconciliation clouds the woman's better judgement, and masks the insincerity of the abuser. He swears he loves her and won't strike again. She takes him back until they're back at stage one. Repeat.
The male who defines his manhood by how many holes he punches through the wall, or how many marks he can leave on a woman is usually feeling anything but masculine. He has misappropriated his role as a man, most likely through forms of twisted gender role b.s. handed down to him, familial or societal. He's attempting to overcompensate for success he'll never realize, and shortcomings he'll never overcome.
The majority of men with histories of abusing women are seldom success stories, and leave much to be desired.
Most women are acutely aware if this type of man is in their lives, though oddly indifferent to how they themselves appear to the functioning segments of society as they pine away for a 20-something-year-old meth head to waddle out of jail with his pants belted around his thighs, back into their arms and purses.
If intelligence is lacking, you'd think reflexes would compensate. Fire makes most hands flinch; you have to question, however, the hand that not only returns to it, but allows itself to become consumed.
Owing to society's oversight, two common aspects about domestic abuse is ignored.
1) Spotlighting the psychopathy within the minds of perpetual victims: all too often, psychologists and criminologists are preoccupied with understanding an abuser's drive to strike, rather than the profile and psychological make-up of one who regularly finds themselves at the receiving end of the abuse.
2) Opening a dialogue for exiting abusive relationships, rather than existing within one: devising escape routes, creating secret/emergency bank accounts and prepacking "getaway bags" are useful tools, although, if the need for these things has presented itself, the ideal time for departure is well behind you.
If you're living in an abusive situation, know that there are countless resources out there to assist you.
There are amenities for you, your children and even your family pets.
Though age and disabilities are among many factors which can complicate some cases, cycles of abuse are, in most instances, dependent on one's resolve to endure them.
Newbridge Family Shelter: 1-800-749-8631 (24 hours)
MHMR Services for the Concho Valley: 1-800-375-8965
Texas Abuse Hotline: 1-800-252-5400
The Helping Paw (Concho Valley PAWS): 325-653-8056 (Emergency) 325-300-PETS