Vail Daily column: What is domestic violence?
March 30, 2014
Domestic violence is one of those phrases that is often whispered and when said aloud results in a number of negative images, judgments and blame. Domestic violence is believed to be one of the most underreported crimes and is often misunderstood by the general public. Misperceptions of domestic violence can have a deleterious impact on individuals experiencing the abuse, victim's willingness to report the abuse, and ultimately, the community's willingness to convict perpetrators of abuse.
Most commonly, the public views domestic violence as a "spat" or a fight that got out of control between a couple. This suggests that domestic violence occurs because one partner is angry and loses their temper. However, the definition of domestic violence takes into account a pattern of behavior throughout time and is most often not classified by a single incident. In domestic violent relationships, abuse is pattern of behavior that occurs given time where one partner utilizes abuse to control the other partner.
May not leave bruises
Most commonly, individuals think about domestic violence as a form of physical abuse. However, there are several form of abuse that can be used to exert control over a partner: Emotional, economic, sexual, isolation, intimidation, coercion/threats, use of children, immigration status, minimizing and blaming.
Getting into your head
Emotional abuse is the most common form of domestic violence. Perpetrators of abuse often use fear, guilt, threats and intimidation to gain control of victims. At Bright Future Foundation, we often work with victims who are reluctant to contact the police, as the perpetrator has used the guilt-ridden line, "how would the children feel if they saw me be arrested?"
Domestic violence can take several forms, however, the abuse often follows a specific pattern, most frequently referred to as "the cycle of violence." Typically, victims of domestic violence report a period of "tension building" where a victim feels that they are walking on eggshells around their partner. Fearing that they will further upset their partner, victims often go out of their way to "keep the peace" and avoid "rocking the boat." Following this, there is frequently "abusive incident." As discussed above, the incident may or may not include physical abuse. Following the "incident," there is the "honeymoon phase." In this phase, the perpetrator asks for forgiveness and often makes promises that the abuse will not occur again.
Why do victims stay?
As a domestic violence services agency, we are frequently asked why women stay in abusive situations. The truth is, there are several legitimate reasons. The most compelling reason to stay in an abusive relationship? The victim is in love. Although victims of domestic violence most often want the abuse to end, they frequently do not want to relationship to end. When a perpetrator of abuse promises to change, victims want to believe them. As such, this makes the honeymoon phase the most powerful phase within the cycle of violence.
In addition to being in love, there are several additional reasons why a victim may stay in an abusive relationship.
• Fear of further abuse.
• Fear of abuse against children.
• Lack of economic resources to leave the abuser.
• Leaving an abuser may mean leaving the home, the children's school, a job …
In Colorado, one in four women are victims of domestic violence during their lifetime. Almost half of all murders in Colorado are committed by an intimate partner. In Eagle County, Bright Future Foundation serves over 600 victims each year.
Sheri Mintz is executive director of the Bright Future Foundation. The Bright Future Foundation serves Eagle County by empowering individuals and families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault to lead safe, productive lives through prevention services, advocacy, crisis intervention and recovery services.