Unless you’ve been living totally off the grid in the past week, you’ve heard about domestic violence incidents that have rocked the National Football League. In each of these cases, a man attacked someone he dearly loved to the point that he endangered the very life of his victim.
High profile cases. Shocking and disturbing. But domestic violence is all too common in every neighborhood. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four American women will experience domestic violence . Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your children from the danger that lurks in many families.
- Domestic violence includes physical assault, of course, but also includes verbal bullying. Take action to protect your children if a family member is physically or verbally abusive. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind and standing by, doing nothing, makes you an accessory to a crime and leaves your child completely alone and unprotected.
- One reason women stay in an abusive relationship is they have no exit plan. Create one for yourself by finding a support group or women’s shelter, or by confiding in your family or a trusted friend. Isolation and dependence are the tools abusers use to keep their victims close. Do what you can now to create an independent identity and financial resources for yourself.
- Even witnessing domestic violence as a child or teen has lifelong negatives effects. Witnessing violence against one’s mother is one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences linked to a whole host of adult disorders and failures. This is why it’s not enough to protect your children from abuse; it’s important that you be safe too.
- Don’t be an abuser yourself. It’s easy to point fingers at others, while ignoring our own tendencies to hit, spank, yell, isolate, and bully. Violence against children is never justified. Violence against your spouse or ex has long-term effects on your children no matter which parent is the perpetrator.
- Special note for parents of teens: Abusers often begin by being controlling and suspicious. Be on high alert if your teen is being restricted by a romantic partner who limits his or her friendships, social interactions, and even work or school activities. Abusers believe they “own” their victims and are jealous and controlling.
- Another note for parents of teens: Notice if your teen is being harassed or stalked by someone, often by a person whose romantic intentions have been rejected. Stalking is often the precursor to violent action. Stalking includes unwanted attention on social media, being followed, lurking outside the teens school or work, and phoning or texting incessantly.
If you are worried about domestic violence in your family, take action to get help. If the abuser recognizes the problem and will go to counseling, great, but if he or she doesn’t or won’t then get professional help yourself. You need an ally who believes you. An abuser thinks the victim deserves the abuse so part of an abuser’s plan is to make a victim agree the abuse is justified.
A court order of protection against an abuser or stalker is one step but may not be enough. There is evidence that it can actually enrage a violent person. Be prepared to move out or move away if you or your children are in danger.
Be proactive. Most abusers gradually become more violent and unpredictable over time. They rarely go from being a calm, reliable person to being one who is out of control. Notice early warning signs and get help quickly. Don’t wait for things to become truly frightening. Don’t leave your children alone with someone whose emotional stability you doubt.
Domestic violence is all too common and is greatly underreported. Protect your children from witnessing domestic abuse and from experiencing abuse themselves. Stand up for yourself and your family. Get help.
© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Look for free downloads on Dr. Anderson’s website at www.patricianananderson.com.