Knowledge is key against domestic violence

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Higgins
  • 95th Medical Operations Squadron
Knowledge is power.

Never has this old adage been truer than when it comes to domestic violence. Abusers count on uninformed victims and communities to allow them to operate without fear of punishment or reprisal.

So the more we know about domestic violence, the more we can empower victims. Through knowledge, we can end what is a heartbreaking and tragic reality for some of our own military families.

There are many types of domestic violence.

Physical violence is just one way to control a victim. Abusers use emotionally-abusive tactics such as isolating their partner from loved ones and exercising extreme control over financial resources. This also includes tearing down their partner's self-esteem and self-worth. They also invade their partners' privacy by habitually reading their private mail or eavesdropping on private conversations. Abusers often destroy a victim's personal property in a show of strength.

There is a common misconception that if a spouse of an active-duty member reports abuse and convicted, the spouse will lose all the active-duty member's pay and benefits. The fact is if an armed forces member on active-duty member is convicted of a dependent abuse offense or is administratively separated with a dependent abuse offense as the basis, the dependents are eligible to receive monthly transitional compensation payments for 12 to 36 months.

It is also false that if a foreign national married to an active-duty member leaves an abusive spouse or files for divorce from an abusive spouse, they will be deported back to their home country and lose all immigrant status.

The Violence Against Women Act Public Law 103-322 ensures adequate access to court and social system services to immigrant victims and their children crucial to protecting their safety and well-being. It also provides most immigrant family violence victims access to some form of legal immigration status, access to all aspects of the justice system and a wide range of social services.

Some victims stay because they believe it is their only real choice. Abusers will often resort to threatening to hurt loved ones, children or pets if the spouse or partner leaves. It is not uncommon to hear a victim say, "He told me I could go, but I wasn't taking the kids."

Communities don't always have adequate shelters, resources or victim's assistance programs. If you add in that 75 percent of domestic violence homicides occur after the victim leaves the abuser, then it is much easier to understand why victims feel they are better off handling the abuser on their own.

Many abusers learned their behavior from years of growing up in abusive families. They genuinely don't see anything wrong with their behavior and therefore believe they don't need treatment. Many abusers simply don't know constructive ways of interacting or negotiating with a partner.

There are very effective treatment programs available for domestic violence offenders.

The most effective treatment for abusers is a program known as the "26-week program." It is a combination of therapy, education and peer confrontation to help abusers come to an understanding that their previous patterns of abuse are unacceptable and destructive. It also teaches abusers new communication tools so they can exist within a healthy relationship.

For more information about domestic violence, call the Edwards Family Advocacy office at 277-5292.