Thursday, December 18, 2014

KASSELMAN: What do you really know about domestic violence?

By AMBER KASSELMAN, Willow Domestic Violence Center | 10/4/2013

As Erin is on her way to the kitchen with some dishware, she grabs the bottle of wine her husband and she were drinking with dinner. He notices.

As he sits back in his chair annoyed, he asks her, “Do you think I’m done with that?”

As Erin is on her way to the kitchen with some dishware, she grabs the bottle of wine her husband and she were drinking with dinner. He notices.

As he sits back in his chair annoyed, he asks her, “Do you think I’m done with that?”

Erin brings the bottle back, explaining timidly that she was coming to pour him more.

A series of accusatory questions follows with Kevin smacking his glass of wine off the table. Within seconds, he shoves Erin against the bookshelf and then he heaves her to the ground. Eventually, he’s on top of her with his hands around her neck while she lies there struggling to breathe, struggling to fight back.

While this is only a scene from the movie “Safe Haven,” domestic violence is an extremely serious and prevalent problem in the United States. About 33 million Americans admitted they were victims of domestic violence, according to a 2006 Harris Poll, and six in 10 adults said they personally knew someone who experienced domestic violence. Yet, Becca Burns, director of volunteer services at the Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence, said this is an issue some people might not fully understand or even be aware of, especially regarding what domestic violence is and who it affects.

“Many people may not know the various types of abuse that can be found in violent relationships, and instead, only define it by the evidence of physical abuse present,” Burns said.

Those other forms include mental, emotional, spiritual, economic, physical or sexual abuse, which occur in “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner or previously intimate partner,” according to the Willow center.

Although domestic violence can happen to anyone, 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women, according to a 2003 brief by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Courtnie Scott-Cammarata, community advocate work program outreach coordinator at the Willow center, said the large percentage of domestic violence survivors being women can be linked to history. 

“Women have been systematically told they were the inferior gender and societies developed around this idea,” Scott-Cammarata said. “It comes down to exerting control, often times physically, over another person.”

Abuse of men also is underreported, Scott-Cammarata said.

But despite domestic violence occurring between individuals, it’s still considered a community problem. Various members of society should educate and enforce action to prevent domestic violence, such as the educational system, justice system, employers, government, social services providers, media, men and clergy, according to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Communities are formed to help and protect their citizens, Scott-Cammarata said.

“Keeping silent about an epidemic of abuse is not healthy for survivors, and it sends the message that this is tolerable,” Scott-Cammarata said. “The biggest thing communities can do is support prevention programs.”

Amber Kasselman is a contributor for the Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence, which serves Franklin County residents.

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