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Stop the silence, unmask the violence

  • Published
  • By Kim Peek
  • 375th Medical Group, Family Advocate
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's important to remember that preventing domestic violence is the responsibility of the abuser and not the victim.

There are several ways to define domestic abuse, but the key points are: it's an issue of misuse of power and control; it can be physical, sexual or emotional in nature; and it can be done by using various methods. Examples are: financial control, coercion and threats, intimidation, isolation, jealousy and blame to justify actions, and using the children as leverage.

Domestic violence is not new to our culture. It has existed as long as one can remember. Often when people hear the statistics about domestic violence, they feel that it does not affect or pertain to them. Most people feel badly about the person who experiences these actions, but many feel powerless to address the issue of domestic violence. There are some active steps that can make a difference.

First, evaluate and understand views on male dominance and which aspects of these views lay the foundation of domestic violence and sexual violence. It is important to acknowledge that at times someone needs to take control of a situation or activity.

However, this needs to be done in a healthy manner and not by using violence, threats, or intimidation. Society conditions us from a very early age to buy into phrases or thoughts such as, "act like a man," "you need to man up," or "who wears the pants in this relationship." Once we understand the role these views have in validating the use of power and control over another person we can begin to change societal views.

Second, examine and challenge the individual beliefs of someone who is abusive. It is natural to react with a desire to keep this quiet or secret, but secrets should not occur if someone is being harmed. If someone is being harmed by domestic violence, it's our responsibility to speak out, reach out, or seek help for this person. We need to stop looking in the other direction or pretending that nothing is wrong or abuse is not happening. We need to change the practice of avoidance/denial and stop minimizing the negative effects that domestic violence has on our society. We need to move forward in actions and change the way we see our own responsibility in this social problem.

Everyone should be part of the change that must happen. So when you hear the statistics about the number of people who were abused physically, sexually or emotionally, think about what you have done to reduce these numbers.

Next, it is important to remember that our silence is affirming to those engaged in power and control. Sending the message that dominance over another is unacceptable can be done simply by saying, "I don't agree," "real men don't hit," "trying to control others is a form of bullying."

It's everyone's responsibility to help stop this behavior. Everyone should send the message to the abusers that it is not alright to attempt to control, hit, or degrade another person. If everyone begins to use nonviolent messages to support the use of nonviolent behaviors in relationships this will impact the way domestic violence is viewed and perceived by all and begin the healing process and attitude change in our society.

Lastly, everyone can become educated on ways to prevent domestic violence in our community especially with our children, teens, and young adults. If everyone takes an active role in creating a culture in which violence against others is not tolerated, this perceptual shift would begin to make the behavioral changes needed to reduce the impact of domestic violence on individuals, families, communities, and ultimately our country.