Domestic violence happens here, too
Family violence costs this nation billions of dollars annually, and nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend.
In 2002, there were 61 domestic violence related deaths in Colorado, and over 200,000 crisis calls to shelters and counseling hotlines. More than 5,000 women and children spent the night at shelters, and another 5,000 had to be turned away due to lack of space.
“Unless we start to dramatically change behaviors, domestic violence will continue to transfer from one generation to the next, impacting every community in Colorado regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, or sexual orientation,” said Trish Thibodo, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Domestic violence is usually distinguishable by its duration, which can be over several years. Physical injuries range from black eyes, burst eardrums, split lips, burns, scalds, torn scalps, broken teeth and broken bones. It’s also not unusual for injuries from beatings to end in death. In fact, over 30 percent of the murders in America take place between family members. Now, whether these are extensions of spousal abuse is undetermined, but there is a strong correlation.
But the above says nothing of the emotional trauma, which at times far outweighs the physical. Constant exposure to beating is enormously damaging to an individual’s self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence, which may be the most devastating result of all.
Although batterers may not necessarily be child abusers, in three out of four violent marriages, with children, the children are physically abused as well. An adjunct to this alarming statistic is that children from abusive homes tend to seek violent relationships later in life. Sixty percent of boys witnessing continual violence at home become batterers, and 50 percent of girls become victims.
The recent rash of domestic violence incidents in Colorado is a sober reminder of why the president has designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
As such, I thought it might be appropriate to dispel a few myths surrounding the topic and to let our readers know that professional help is available locally for victims of this appalling phenomenon.
Myth: Battering is restricted to poorly educated families from lower socioeconomic classes.
Reality: Wrong. Battering is found in all socioeconomic classes, and unusually high incidences of battering are found in wives married to men in “helping” professions.
Myth: Husbands and wives have always fought. It’s natural and therefore can’t be that bad.
Reality: There is occasional conflict in every family, but the distinguishing feature is the severity and intensity of violence. Unfortunately, in too many situations, the home is more of a breeding ground for violence than the streets. Statistics have shown that 85 percent of the men in prison grew up in violent homes.
Myth: Battered women are masochistic and enjoy it. Otherwise they wouldn’t stay.
Reality: This ridiculous notion is tantamount to saying that women want to be raped. Sometimes women are reluctant to leave an abusive situation for a variety of reasons, including insecurity about supporting their children alone, shame, economic dependence and love or concern for the abuser. Unfortunately, though, even when women leave abusive environments it does not guarantee that the beatings will stop. Batterers often go to great lengths to trace their spouse or girlfriend to continue to abuse.
Myth: Once a batterer, always a batterer.
Reality: Not necessarily. A number of counseling programs for the batterer assist in finding nonviolent solutions to problems. It is important to realize, however, that nine out of 10 batterers do not believe they need to end their violence and never seek counseling.
Myth: Once a battered woman, always a battered woman.
Reality: There is a growing community awareness of the plight of battered women and their children, and the Resource Center of Eagle County is one of them. It was originally incorporated in 1984 as the Women’s Resource Center, but they changed their name in 1990 to better reflect their services to the community.
The Resource Center of Eagle County operates a 24-hour Advocate Crisis Line, a Freedom Ranch Safe house, and the Buddies Program. Their Advocates Program provides crisis-intervention for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Services include: 24-hour crisis hotline, a women’s support group, safe housing, shelter programs, advocacy, counseling and education. A well-trained and dedicated team of volunteers staffs the 24-hour crisis hotline. Victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and their families and friends, can reach an advocate by calling 949-7086.
The women’s support group meets regularly, providing a forum for women to share their stories with others who have had similar experiences. Support groups are a proven method of trauma recovery and a wonderful way to help raise women’s awareness about the cycle of abuse.
Freedom Ranch, Eagle County’s first safe house for victims of domestic violence and their children, opened in fall 2002. Thanks to strong support from the Eagle County community, they offer comprehensive and long-term services to women and children trying to break free from the cycle of violence and restart their lives, including job training, counseling, and parenting support.
As much as we would like to think otherwise, domestic violence does rear its ugly head even here in Happy Valley.
Quote of the day: “It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness.”
Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a local real estate broker and a ski instructor for the Vail Ski School, can be reached at email@example.com