For most of us, the holiday season is a time to connect with family and friends; a time to create and honor traditions. But what about the approximate 4 million women who suffer physical abuse by an intimate partner annually or the nearly 80 percent of women who report that they have been verbally abused by a partner - how do they balance holiday traditions with keeping the peace?
As you go about your day, take a second to look around at the women you see and consider the following:
1. The woman with the shopping cart full of expensive gifts is not immune to domestic violence. Domestic violence takes place in all types of families regardless of race, education, ethnicity, location, profession or socio-economic status.
2. The woman living in the beautifully decorated home resplendent with twinkling lights may eat her dinner in her car. She prefers this to her husband belittling her in front of their children during meals and dumping food on her.
3. If you are standing in a long line at the checkout, do a quick calculation. Of the approximately 20 women in line, nearly five of them report experiencing violence by a former or current spouse or partner at some point in their lives.
4. Look at the local school yard and consider that 15.5 million children in the U.S. live in families where domestic violence occurred at least once in the past 12 months. In addition, approximately seven million children live in families characterized as domestic violence situations of an extreme or severe nature. Approximately one in three children who were witnesses to domestic violence report that they have also been physically abused.
5. In families with incidents of domestic violence, one may look to past generations; as a large percentage of men who commit violent acts were abused as children (and witnessed domestic violence) and have 'learned' that violence is a part of family life.
6. At the mall, office party or local restaurant, watch couples together and soon it will become clear which ones exhibit patterns of controlling behavior (an integral part of domestic violence) such as: jealousy, verbal abuse, insults, put downs, roughness, intimidation, dominance/bossiness, isolation, humiliation, and threats of harm to partner or family members.
7. Women in domestic violence relationships are well aware of the cycle of violence dynamic. In this regard, there are three recognizable phases: tension building, explosive/violent incident, and honeymoon. During the tension building phase the woman often feels at a loss how to please her partner and keep him from exploding. She feels that she can do nothing right and is often blamed by her partner for things she did not do or perceived wrongs. In the explosive/violent incident phase the abuse occurs and can include any of the following: emotional abuse, sexual abuse or physical abuse. In the honeymoon phase, the abuser may apologize, buy gifts or even promise never to abuse again. Think about the women caught in this cycle and how can they possibly balance the demands of the holidays and the demands of their abuser? How do they minimize the risk of the explosive or violent incident from occurring during the holidays?
8. Even though there are usually increased reports of domestic violence during the holidays, shelters do not necessarily see an increase in demand for their services. Experts in the field share that many women do not want to spend the holidays in a shelter, especially if there are children involved; however, once the holidays are over, many shelters see an increase in contact from women who are victims of domestic violence. For example, on a single day in 2008, 16,458 children were registered as living in a domestic violence shelter or some form of transitional housing facility.
When contemplating gift giving this season, please consider giving a donation to a shelter in someone's name. In these uncertain economic times, it is difficult for shelters to provide adequate care to meet the needs of all women requiring service. There are many charities and organizations vying for donation dollars and shelters for victims of domestic violence are particularly challenged in this regard - domestic violence is a subject which is under-reported, difficult to comprehend, and often occurs behind closed doors. For example, in the United States there are approximately 1,500 shelters for victims of domestic violence, while there are over 3,800 shelters for abused animals. Many fundraisers find it much easier to find donations for animal shelters than for shelters servicing domestic violence victims.
Shelters for victims of domestic violence need support in many ways. While each shelter may have its own particular list of requests, generally, shelters need the following donations: funding, charitable donations, clothing for women and children, furniture, household goods, and toys and books for children. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in Washington D.C., can be reached at 1-800-333-SAFE or online at www.ncadv.org. This valuable resource has a list of State Coalitions Against Domestic Violence and information on finding local shelters. Also, local shelters can be found in directories of each city, town or county.
"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."
Please donate to your local Shelter for Abused Women and Children.
List of Sources:
1. Whitfield, C.L., Anda, R.F., Dube, S.R., Felittle, V.J., (2003). Violent Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Intimate Partner Violence in Adults: Assessment in a Large Health Maintenance Organization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 18(2): 166-185.
2. Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breidling, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J. & Stevens, M.R. (2011). "Sexual violence victimization." National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Atlanta, GA.
Catalano, S. (2005). Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics: Washington, D.C.
Shorey, R.C., Zucosky, H., Brasfield, H. Febres, J., Cornelius, T.L., Sage, C., & Stuart, G.L. (2012). "Dating violence prevention programming: Directions for future interventions." Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(4), 289-296.
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