October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. BDA invites you to our virtual town hall and vigil on Oct 28th, 6-8pm cst, via ZOOM. Watch our Facebook event page for more information and the link to join the conversation live!
Unfortunately, the year of 2020 is unlike any other; mandatory quarantines and job loss created a toxicity of stress factors much worse than what we have seen in the past century. This year our loved ones, neighbors, especially the kids are at a much higher risk than some can imagine.
Maybe you think it can’t be that bad. ‘Certainly the police or someone would be involved if there was any real problem.’
‘Sure they fight with each other; I’ve heard it go on for years’
‘Sure we get called to that house four or five times a year, maybe more’
‘Sure I’ve noticed some changes in this student; they seem distant, don’t finish their homework, their appearance and their behavior have changed. They seem easily agitated and act out in class.’
These are just some of the comments from family, neighbors, law enforcement, educators. All witnessing basic Warning Sings of some type of abuse or struggle in their life, but most of us aren’t really sure if we should get involved. As a child who grew up in constant fear, a woman, a mother, a wife who desperately walked on eggshells every day and was actually terrified of the one who said ‘I love you’; decades of my life were spent silently praying for someone to help me find a way out, not just for me, but more importantly to change the environment for my children.
Domestic Violence isn’t just about the direct violence in the relationship. It involves completely dominating your partner’s life. It’s verbal insults, accusations, and degradation. It’s threats of harm to other persons or perhaps the pets or employer, coworkers. It’s blaming and shaming victims to all others so the abuser can make themselves seem perfect. This is all a tactic to keep their victims in their control and ensure that neighbors, family, schools, and even law enforcement stay out of the ‘family business’.
Abusers and their victims may suffer from anger, depression, anxiety. They may react in outbursts of rage, punch walls, throw things around, make threats with weapons, suffer substance use problems, or their own long term mental illness or trauma related behaviors and triggers. Domestic Violence can lead to a destructive future and a learned tolerance of harm that just might become the only ‘normal’ our children learn. It leaves us vulnerable to other abusers. It causes kids to be lured into other dangerous or risk taking behaviors; internet meet ups, in appropriate pictures or interactions with online predators, perhaps they learn to use drugs, alcohol, cutting, and eating problems as a coping strategies to mask their true suffering.
We don’t have to feel helpless in these situations. There are more resources of help than ever before. There is rebuilding and support for recovery; there is education and training for professionals. There is always something we can do when we suspect possible harm or struggles. First we have to recognize changes and address them directly.
Family and friends; ‘As someone who cares about you, can I ask if things are okay? I’ve noticed a few things that make me a little concerned. Is there anything I can do or would you like to talk about things?’
Law enforcement, Children’s Services, Advocates; ‘What do the adults say about what’s happening? What do the children say? What did they see or hear in the heated moments? Has anyone made any threats, pulled a weapon, or caused direct harm? How long has this turmoil been happening?’ Maybe you will do an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) evaluation? Maybe you need to provide a Lethality Assessment? Either of these tools can be found on the internet and are quite useful to help give victims a proven perspective about what’s really happening and just how much they are minimizing the actual level of harm. I commonly use both of these assessments when I talk with victims of violence or sexual harm.
The ACE score represents their past, what types of fears and traumas they’ve experienced that might cause them to believe things really aren’t that bad.
The Lethality Assessment gives a real look into the relationship or the offender’s actions. Allows victims to see just how dangerous things really are and how they might be escalating. This assessment should always be provided in Domestic Violence, along with hotline numbers and local responding advocacy services.
Educators you play an important role in your student’s life. You see them day after day, so other than parents and siblings; you likely interact more with them than any other person. When you see a collective of changes in a student, you can help by first trying to build a closer circle of trust with that student. List your concerns; late or incomplete homework, changes in appearance, signs of neglect, anger, bullying, or shutting down, isolating themselves from friends or being constantly distant. You can take your list and ask other teachers who associate with the student if they’ve noticed any changes. You can team up on behalf of the student, take your concerns to school social workers and administration. If you submit a report to Children’s Services, please explain it to the student. Help the understand that it might be a little scary, but it’s important to get help so they and their families can get better.
Community members can help by being vigilant, especially for the children in your neighborhood. You might not see the children for days, but when you do something seems different about them. You hear fighting but no sure if someone is being hurt, you can always call for a well check and report what’s happening. Remember that only a very few will actually be privy to the abuse or witness an act of harm. What you see from a distance is just the outside layers of what is probably something much worse behind closed doors.
As we speak out across the nation for equality and safety, we as a society must choose to do the right thing when we suspect an abusive or violent situation. We must realize that in all the protests for our human rights, we cannot dismiss those who suffer in these types of environments. Domestic Violence changes all of those in the family, so in rebuilding and supporting to keep ‘Family First’ in tact, we will have to help victims feel safe today, but we will also have to help them reclaim their own identiy and rebuild their dreams for an independent sustainable and productively positive direction forward.
When we choose to do nothing. When we choose to tolerate the harm and ignore the suffering of others, this is when we give power to the generational trauma and harmful behaviors that have existed throughout human history. All things are possible and you really can make a difference, but we first have to be part of the equation!!
Thank you for reading. Please visit http://www.thehotline.org for resources and 24/7 crisis support across the country. You can find out more about Butterfly Dreams Alliance and the different topics we are here to help change by visiting our website; http://www.butterflydreamsalliance.org
Abuse and violence, sexual harm and human trafficking, are all power and control over another human being. You can give that person back at least some of their power, when you stand with them, acknoweldge them, ensure their rights to a safe home, while we help others heal from past trauma to be more positive parents for their children.
We all have the power to do something! You just might be the hero who changes the direction and helps heal the trauma, which will then create a new ripple effect of goodness for generations to come.
CEO; Butterfly Dreams Alliance, NFP