Domestic violence happens — and can be stopped — here
Published 11:30 am Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Domestic violence is a cycle with many causes and more victims among us than anyone might think. While we all know at some level that violence against women exists, even here in Escambia County, we are all shocked when such a situation gets out of hand and results in the death of one of the domestic partners, as occurred in Atmore only a few weeks ago.
Where does the problem come from? The National Family Violence Survey points to poverty as one factor.
Abusive violence against women is three and one-half times more likely to happen when the woman has an income less than $10,000 than it is in a household with an income of more than $40,000
Researchers found that 33percent of welfare recipients and 25 percent of low-income non-recipients had experienced "severe aggression" in adulthood by a partner.
Traditional wisdom says that to end the violence, the woman should leave.
That is a very simple solution to a complicated problem.
It is next to impossible to leave when you have no money, no resources, and are afraid if your friends or family help you, they could become victims as well.
And if you are afraid of being homeless and hungry, or causing your children to become homeless and hungry, violence from time to time may not seem like such an untolerable situation. After all, homelessness is every day.
The good news in this county, and most counties, is that there is help available.
There is a domestic violence unit that works with the victim to locate the resources and help she needs.
That may include help in finding housing, such as a safe house, counseling, help with getting a protection from abuse order – commonly referred to as a restraining order – and going to the court hearings with the victim to support her case with the investigation.
But what can be done to make it stop? How do we break the cycle?
Children do what they see, what they accept as the way the world works, how things are supposed to be between people in a household.
Therefore, if a boy sees his mother being hit, or told how stupid she is, or made to report her whereabouts at every second, account for each penny of money that is spent, he will grow up believing that is what a family does.
If a girl grows up seeing her mother hit, isolated from family and friends, followed to work or anyplace else she may go, then she believes that means love.
And in the minds of children the cycle continues.
Part of the work done here in Escambia County is done during Red Ribbon Week, when domestic violence education comes to middle school students. It may be the first time that child learns that hitting is not right, that control and love are not the same.
It is only a small thing, but it has to start somewhere, and perhaps the child will find enough courage to say to his or her mother, this is not right, we do not have to live like this.
And if that is too much to hope for, perhaps the child will understand enough that they are not going to grow up and be in an abusive relationship, or become an abuser. In the meantime, we can all help by trying to understand that it is not a cut and dried issue, that if the woman wants it to end she will just leave. It is much more difficult than that.
But most of all, don't you dare believe it couldn't happen here.