Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse

     Witnessing abuse between parents is a strong predictor of violent behavior from one generation to the next. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to law enforcement. It takes six to eight times for a victim of domestic abuse to leave the abuser, if the victim ever leaves. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and these are the sobering facts behind the abuse.

     Domestic violence occurs at all income and education levels and age ranges. While most view domestic abuse as physical, it can also involve financial and sexual control and verbal intimidation. When domestic abuse results in physical injury, it’s called domestic violence.

Know the signs
While there are many signs of an abusive relationship, the most telling sign is fear of your partner. You’re in an abusive relationship if you:
  • Must always watch what you say 
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right 
  • Believe you deserve the abuse 
Domestic abuse also occurs when a partner:
  • Humiliates or yells at you 
  • Criticizes and puts you down 
  • Ignores your accomplishments 
  • Acts jealous or possessive 
  • Keeps you from seeing family and friends 
  • Controls your access to finances, cars and phones 
  • Threatens you with violence or strikes you 
Help in the hospital
     More victims are coming forth about domestic abuse and many times the abuse first surfaces in the emergency room.

     In 2012, Meritus Medical Center received a grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and support from CareFirst BlueCross to fund a hospital-based domestic violence prevention program. The program equips emergency department staff, hospital psychiatric services, social workers and labor and delivery nurses with the necessary training, tools and resources to read the signs and ask the right questions.

     In many emergency room situations, the abuser is often standing next to the victim, so how questions are phrased becomes critical. Armed with information, health care professionals can offer needed services, like advocacy programs and shelters. Most importantly, conversations between victims and providers remain confidential.

Break the cycle
     If you’re in an abusive relationship, know that you have the right to live without fear and violence. Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA) is a safe harbor for children, teenagers and adults in Washington County who have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault or abuse and rape. CASA provides:
  • A 24-hour hotline, 301-739-8975
  • Temporary emergency shelter to victims of domestic violence
  • A rape crisis program
  • Individual counseling
  • Support groups
  • Abuser intervention
  • Legal services
  • Career advisement
  • Workshops on legal rights, self-esteem, job readiness, nutrition and parenting skills

     More than half of Americans say they know someone who has been involved in an abusive relationship. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, talk to a trustworthy person—a friend, minister or health care provider. Often in domestic violence, the cycle repeats itself and becomes more frequent and severe over time so it’s never too soon to develop an exit plan.

Sources: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, HelpGuide.org, Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused

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