Criminal Justice News

Friday, October 26, 2012

Preventing domestic violence key to healthy relationships

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

10/26/2012 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- When punches are thrown, feelings are bruised and a family is crushed, violence within the home becomes a sobering subject.

Domestic violence has the power to seep into any household within the Fairchild community, according to Fairchild's Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate, Janet Bunn. Educating the community is the key to preventing domestic violence.

"Recognizing the signs of domestic violence and having the tools to intervene are vital in the fight against domestic abuse," she said. "Teaching people how and when to approach the subject with a suspected victim is one of the tools needed and then following with what to say and what not to say to the suspected victim. Remember the goal is to get the victim safe whether they stay or leave the relationship."

How it begins
The cycle of domestic violence can be just one day or it may escalate over a period of weeks or months depending upon the relationship.

"Victims never get hit or punched on the first date," said Bunn. "Controlling behavior can start very subtly. The relationship can be rushed and the boundaries within it are determined by the controller."

Domestic violence begins with the formation of an unhealthy relationship, meaning without shared responsibility, economic partnership, respect, negotiation and fairness, honesty and accountability, trust and support, according to Bunn, who describes abusive relationships as a three part cycle.

Cycle of abuse
Though each relationship is different, the three parts of the abusive cycle are usually consistent.

The first part is the tension-building phase, where friction is built within the home over money, children, jobs, or anything the abuser wishes to use. Abuse usually begins verbally until reaching a climax. This is when phase two - physical violence (explosive incident) occurs.

The honeymoon is the last phase, which manifests as an expression of remorse by the abuser portraying a kind, loving behavior with apologies, helpfulness and generosity, promising the abuse will never happen again, although some victims describe never having a third phase. Keep in mind, to the outside world the abuser appears to be a great parent, spouse, employee and family member. The first thing the neighbors say to the media after a murder or suicide is, "The family looked so happy, perfect."

"We never know what goes on behind closed doors," Bunn said.

Breaking the cycle
The cycle of abuse will continue until the victim makes the decision to leave or circumstances makes the decision for them. Often when the abuser starts to direct anger and abuse toward children or someone intervenes, sometimes a concerned co-worker, neighbor or family member suspects an environment of domestic violence and takes action, referring the family to Family Advocacy. There, families can discover their stressors and ways in which they can deal with them other than abuse with a variety of classes and counseling, Fairchild's Family Advocacy Officer Capt. Zarah Davis said.

"If you know how to open the subject with the individual, talk to them," added Davis. "Find out if they are safe or if someone in their home is hurting them. Talk to the victim about getting help and offer to make the call. If you need guidance on what to say and how to say it, call Janet Bunn 24/7 at (509) 481-9025. She will help you and your friend directly. There are resources available for victims of domestic violence."

Forms of abuse
Bunn helped explain the differences between the forms of physical and emotional abuse saying, "You don't have to be physically abused to be a victim of domestic violence."

Examples of physical violence such as hitting, kicking, shoving, punching, grabbing or even biting are easy to identify, Bunn said.

Harder to report and recover from are emotional, verbal, and mental abuse involving degradation or belittlement, interrogation or isolation from family members and friends. Sexual abuse (sex without consent with one's partner/spouse is against the law), animal abuse, neglect or physical abuse using different objects such as sticks, belts, electrical cords for strangulation, stabbing, burning or poisoning are forms of extreme domestic violence.

Bunn says the leading cause she finds in domestic violence cases is the need to have power and control over another individual. This is a learned behavior. The abuser has witnessed and/or experienced it sometime in their life. Alcohol and/or drugs do not cause domestic violence. The power and control issues within the relationship are already a factor; however, alcohol may exacerbate and accelerate the problem, Bunn continued.

Military families have more stressors that contribute to domestic violence, Davis added.

"Families in general deal with many stressful situations; employment, housing, problems with kids in school, alcohol and finances," said Davis. "Military families deal with many of those same situations but add to that deployment, easy access to weapons, family histories, isolating victims from family and friends far away, military members returning from the war in a battle mindset complete with stress reactions, and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, drugs, withdrawing, and/or sudden emotional outbursts."

Victims of domestic violence can contact the domestic abuse victim advocate 24/7 at (509) 481-9025. The Fairchild Family Advocacy Program offers restricted reporting to victims who have not informed their chain of command or a law enforcement agency. If a victim is in danger, one should contact the security forces immediately. Remember, everyone deserves to be safe.

[Editor's note: Rebecca Burylo from the Air University Public Affairs Office contributed to this article.]

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