By Kim Morrill, LCSW-C
While Domestic Violence is always an important issue, sometimes events unfold that highlight just how prevalent and frightening it is. Recent developments in the NFL, including the release of an extremely disturbing video that shows Ray Rice knocking out and dragging his then fiancée out of an elevator at a casino, has brought domestic violence to the forefront of public attention.
According to the Maryland Uniform Crime Report, in 2013, there were 27,785 reported incidents of domestic violence in Maryland. Nearly three quarters of those victims were women.
Domestic violence comes in different forms. Most people can easily recognize physical abuse. Ray Rice’s punches were real. Bruises can be seen and felt, making physical abuse easier to verify. It often follows a more predictable cycle that includes:
- A build- up of tension
- Verbal Abuse
- Physical Violence
- Blaming of the Victim
- Promises that it will never happen again
- A honeymoon period or an attempt to prove that there are not problems
It is much more difficult to identify the signs of emotional or verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is defined as using language that belittles or bullies. Emotional abuse is more premeditated and is used as an attempt to control and manipulate partners. Emotional abuse is not a loss of control for the abuser, rather, it is an attempt to gain total control over a partner. Here are some examples of emotionally abusive behaviors:
- Coercion, intimidation or threatening actions
- Isolation from friends/family/community members
- Minimizing or denying their own role in a problem
- Control over finances
- Evoking male privilege and status as a rationalization
- Using children as a tactic to manipulate and prevent the victim from leaving
If you are living with someone who is being physically, verbally or emotionally abusive, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and your children.
- Know your abuser’s red flags. Be on alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.
- Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.
- Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you’re in danger and the police should be called.
- Make an escape plan then practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also. In addition, Get your own cell phone. Consider purchasing a prepaid cell phone or another cell phone that your abuser doesn’t know about. Some shelters offer free cell phones to battered women. Call your local hotline to find out more.
- Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, and the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend’s house, for example).
- Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.
- Contact the domestic violence/sexual assault program in your area. They can provide emotional support, peer counseling, safe emergency housing, information, and other services while you are in the relationship, as well as if you decide to leave.
There is no documented difference in rates of domestic violence between religions, races or socio-economic classes. No community, no one is immune. And, as has become quite evident, even people perceived as role models can be perpetrators. To aid those affected by domestic violence, we must create an environment in which it feels safe to seek help.
Our community has safe, confidential resources to support victims of domestic violence.
Jewish Community Services 410-466-9200
HOUSE of RUTH: 24 Hour Hotline 410-899-7884
JCADA (Jewish Coalitions against Domestic Violence): 1-877-885-2232 or 301-315-8041
The National Domestic Violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233
By Kim Morrill, LCSW-C, JCS Child and Adolescent Therapist
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.