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Nov. 22: Stop the Violence Day...

Communities all suffer from domestic violence

By Linda Breazeale

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Domestic violence knows no social, racial, educational or economic boundaries, and everyone in the community pays a price for it.

Days lost from work or school along with the increased drain on the health and justice systems are just part of the costs communities bear from domestic violence.

Patsilu Reeves, family life education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said unhealthy families repeat dangerous cycles in current and future relationships. Without aggressive treatment and awareness programs, domestic violence will cause increasing drains on societies in the years to come.

“One problem is the tendency for domestic abuse to be passed on to the next generation. Boys who witness domestic violence are three times more likely to abuse their own wives. Sons from families with the most violent parents are 1,000 times more likely to become spouse abusers,” Reeves said. “Girls from those families are also more likely to end up in abusive adult relationships.”

The other cycle that counselors see is within the behavior itself. Reeves said the abuse cycle can be described as having a romance phase, a tension phase, and an explosion followed by regret. Then the cycle begins again with the romance phase. She described the experience as being similar to a ticking time bomb that eventually explodes and damages the family.

“Women start believing that the explosions happen because of something they did or didn't do, and that is what the abuser wants them to believe,” Reeves said. “The truth is that explosions happen because that person is an abuser.”

Gail McDaniel, domestic violence program coordinator with Safe Haven Shelter in Columbus, said as the cycles continue, the honeymoon or romance phase gets shorter each time and may cease altogether if the victim stays with the abuser.

After experiencing these cycles over and over, the victim may develop a much lower self esteem. The abuser will convince her that no one will want her, she is no good and he is the best she can do.

“Usually he will not get physically abusive until the woman has made a commitment to the relationship, such as moving in, becoming engaged or marrying him,” she said. “Women still can recognize signs of an abuser by these three characteristics: jealousy, controlling and self centered.”

McDaniel said since abusers did not act violent in the past, the victim will be more likely to believe she is the reason he has become physically abusive. Abuse is not designed to drive the victim away; it is designed to control.

Many victims are not able to work outside the home, possibly because of their abuser, and that limits their ability to leave the relationship. The presence of children in the situation may increase the woman's dependence on the abuser.

“Many women still claim to love the men who hurt them. The victim's whole world has been centered on pleasing him, but when asked to name his good points, she may have trouble naming one,” McDaniel said.

Victims may point to additional factors, such as alcohol and drugs, as contributers to the abuse. While those factors may intensify the abuse, McDaniel said those problems do not make any person an abuser.

“Another misconception is that victims need marriage counseling,” she said. “Actually, he needs to go to a domestic violence program and she needs victims' counseling.”

For help with addressing issues related to domestic violence, contact the community counseling service or call the national domestic violence hotline at (800) 799-SAFE.


Released: Nov. 10, 2005
Contact: Dr. Patsilu Reeves, (662) 325-1801

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