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NEWS | Oct. 19, 2016

Hurricanes and domestic violence, two disasters

By Brenda Edmond, Family Advocacy Outreach Manager Family Advocacy Outreach Manager

As we recover from Hurricane Matthew, I can’t help but recognize the similarities between such a natural disaster and the unfortunate man-made disaster of domestic violence. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).  Domestic violence is a topic few people enjoy discussing. However, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Annually, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.  Moreover, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime which negates the myth that domestic violence is solely a crime against women. 

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions to influence another person.

Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc. are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.

Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.

Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.

Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.

Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include, but are not limited to, causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property and forcing isolation from family, friends or school and/or work.

Just like hurricanes, domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together or dating.

While all the forms of abuse certainly cannot be correlated with natural disasters, some similarities are quite evident. Hurricane Matthew brought about mass destruction and loss of lives and property.  It evoked fear and intimidation to individuals throughout many states and it affected us all  in spite of our race, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender or socioeconomic status. The same can be said of domestic violence.

The cycle of violence represents patterns occurring in homes where domestic violence is prevalent. The pattern includes a tension building phase where the victim feels growing anxiety in the home and may even make attempts to minimize stress to avoid the violence.  This is followed by the explosion which is the actual abuse against the victim, followed by a honeymoon phase or calm where the abuser apologizes and attempts to mend the damage caused during the explosion.  Hurricane Matthew followed this pattern developing and growing stronger over the Atlantic Ocean, exploding through the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, leaving thousands to deal with the aftermath of its devastation.

Like Hurricane Matthew, the effects of domestic violence are long lasting and far reaching.  Domestic violence affects those who are abused and has a substantial impact on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses and the community at large. Children growing up witnessing domestic violence are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems and teaches them that violence is a normal way of life - therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.

Sometimes the last thing people want to do is reach out when they’re in need but Family Advocacy’s mission and primary goal is to strengthen our military families.  We’re here to help.  For more information please call us at 843-963-6972 (AB) or 843-794-4192 (WS).