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Escaping an abusive relationship is difficult, expert says

October 30, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Lacking money and personal power, a woman typically tries to leave an abusive relationship seven to nine times, a domestic violence advocate said Sunday.

“She’s comfortable there because she believes she has control in that situation. She doesn’t, but she believes she does,” said Linda Dougherty, of Women In Need.

Discussions about domestic violence covered red flags, legal concerns, police calls and ways a community can help during Trinity United Church of Christ’s roundtable Sunday evening in partnership with Women In Need, or  WIN.

The event was the second in a four-part series called “Bearing Witness.” The church will host similar events about social issues Jan. 15 and April 15, 2012.

WIN is an organization serving 1,700 victims of sexual and domestic violence in Franklin and Fulton counties each year. It offers advocacy, support groups, individual counseling, an emergency shelter, a 24-hour hot line, legal representation, and a sexual assault response team to assist hospitals and police.

“The most difficult thing is to understand if you’ve never been in a relationship that is abusive. The power dynamics are different,” said Linda Dougherty, who has worked with WIN for 10 years.

Relationships aren’t abusive from the first date, but evolve through several stages, Dougherty said.

She identified an abusive relationship’s progression for the abuser and victim. For the abuser, she said the stages transition from making excuses to destructive decisions, changed thinking, self-destructive behavior and criminal charges.

“In an abusive relationship, there is no partnership. It’s a ‘power over’ (thing) that is a problem,” Dougherty said.

Abuse takes many forms, including economic, mental, emotional and physical, Dougherty said. All involve belittling someone and breaking their spirit, she said.

The most dangerous time for a woman is typically when she leaves the abuser, Dougherty said.

Dougherty recommended “The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond” by Patricia Evans to the group.

WIN’s 24-hour hot line can be reached at 717-264-4444.

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