Violence at Home.
How can you defend yourself against domestic violence?
Mistaken Beliefs Allow It to Continue
Shocking as this report is, shock isn't enough to halt the prevalence of
abuse in America, says Stacey Kabat, executive director and founder of the
advocacy group Peace at Home. "There are still deeply entrenched myths
surrounding domestic violence that allow it to persist. Breaking down these
myths is critical to ending the acceptance of violence in our society."
Particularly destructive are beliefs that abuse is a private family matter or
that the abuser behaves abusively because he (or she) loses control, or that
the victim provokes the violence. "Violence is not about a loss of
control," says Kabat. "Instead, it's about power and control."
People do not abuse in a fit of rage -- they know very well what they are
doing, she says. And to say that someone provoked any sort of abuse is to lay
blame on the victim, which only serves to increase a sense of isolation and
Linda Marshall, PhD, director of the program in social work at Texas Women's
University in Houston, agrees that debunking these beliefs is critical, but
does think we're making progress. "At least now these myths aren't
automatically accepted as truth like they were 20 or even 10 years ago,"
she said. "Now we question them, we discuss them as a society. That's
progress. But we need to do more."
More Programs Reaching Out to Women
In the last 20 years, more has been done to help women in violent
relationships. Outreach programs have sprung up in most cities, and increasing
numbers of people are being trained to recognize and help stop abuse when they
Because so many women who have been abused show up at hospitals, it makes
sense to have specialized care in place there. Parkland Medical Center in
Dallas, Texas, is doing just that. Parkland is one of the first hospitals in
the United States to have an on-site center that provides women living in
violent situations with support and resources. The center pairs each woman with
a social worker who helps her to negotiate the legal system, document the abuse
through eyewitness testimony and photographs, develop safety plans for those
who decide to leave their relationships, provide emergency shelter, and help
get protective orders against abusers. The center also trains staff at other
hospitals to implement their own domestic violence programs. "The center is
a one-stop, one-shop place where victims of domestic violence can come,"
says Ellen Taliaferro, founder and medical director of the Violence
Intervention and Prevention clinic at Parkland Hospital.
Employers, too, are realizing that they can help, because domestic violence
is not isolated to the home. It can spill over into the workplace in the form
of violence, threatening phone calls, absenteeism related to injuries, or loss
of productivity due to extreme stress. This is especially difficult because
when the home is violent, a woman's workplace is often one of the few places
where she can be safe and away from her abuser. Many organizations, including
Blue Shield of California, are recognizing this and providing workplace
training to help educate human resource professionals, managers, and co-workers
about what to do if a worker is in a violent relationship.