Vicki: Last year, in Washington County, the police received approximately 1,600 calls concerning domestic violence incidents. The Washington County Family Violence Council has been documenting the number of calls since 1999. Since that time, we continue to see an increase in the number of calls. Last year, CASA received approximately 24,000 calls to our 24-hour hot line (301-739-8975). Even though these numbers are high, we anticipate that there are many individuals that do not report. We would like to stress that all calls to CASA are confidential.
Moderator: Does someone who abuses his or her spouse or domestic partner usually fit a typical profile? Are there signs that emerge during the early part of a relationship that can warn people about a person's potential for abuse?
Vicki: An abuser does often have traits that can signal failure to deal with a relationship in a healthy manner. In all abusers, control is a major factor.
In the beginning of a relationship, the traits may not surface immediately. A danger signal to watch for is the abuser trying to isolate the victim from friends and family. Verbal abuse is common. This entails name-calling, degrading the victim, destroying the victim's self-esteem. Examples could be constantly telling the victim how stupid they are, they don't know how to do anything right, that they are ugly and that the problems in the relationship are always their fault.
A very dangerous time for victims seems to be during pregnancy, especially if the unborn child is a male. The abuser usually will hit or beat the victim about the abdomen because the abuser feels threatened or jealous over the pregnancy.
Patti: Is it always males who are the abusers?
Vicki: No. We primarily see men in the role of abusers at CASA. Many times, it is very hard for a man to admit he is being abused by a woman. We have to remember that the "norm" is that men have been taught, from the time they were little boys, that you never hit a girl or a woman.
Carol: Many male victims are emotionally abused, but tend to not come forward for help due to embarrassment. But it is important that they realize that if children are witnesses to this abuse, they could repeat the cycle when they get older.
Moderator: Why do many people who are abused tend to stay with their partners?
Vicki: People tend to stay with their abuser for many reasons. Domestic violence is a very complex issue, one that many people fail to understand. The most common remark we hear is the victim stays in the relationship because they like to be beaten. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Some grew up in the same type of relationship, even though they vowed that this would never happen to them, they subconsciously chose a partner with the same characteristics as the abusive parent. They think this type of relationship is normal. Another factor is the cycle:
· First, we have the tension building phase - the stress is building for the abuser.
· Second, the explosive phase - the abuser reaches the point where the abusive incident occurs.
· And finally, the honeymoon phase - the abuser is sorry and vows that it will never happen again.
This is what the victim wants to hear - that the abuser loves the victim and promises to seek help so it will never happen again. In most cases, the victim still loves the abuser and feels the situation can be fixed.
The victim, in most instances, is financially dependent on the abuser.
Carol: There is a common form of abuser called economic abuse, in which the abuser dominates or controls all personal finances. Even if the victim is employed, they must surrender their paycheck to the abusive partner. This is a major factor in why some victims stay.
Vicki: Another factor in why victims stay is fear of leaving the abuser as well as wondering how they are going to survive on their own. Even though their partner is abusive, they still bring the paycheck home and pay the bills.