Crossing the Line: Recognizing and helping victims of abuse

Although most people think of domestic violence as violence perpetrated against intimate partners, it also describes violence perpetrated against older people and children. Most intimate violence affects women, and it crosses all racial, ethnic, religious, educational and socioeconomic lines. It’s estimated that 25 percent of women in the United States are victims of intimate violence at some point in their lives. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, and it has tremendous social, economic and public health implications. Violence can take many different forms, and among other things, it involves actual or threatened physical, sexual, psychological, financial or emotional trauma against another individual.

There is typically a cycle of violence. First, the "Honeymoon Phase" is described as the phase of apologizes, gifts and promises to never let it happen again. This is followed by the "Tension-building Phase" where the anger intensifies and is exhibited by blaming, arguing and jealousy. Blame is an important aspect of abuse, and with time, victims often feel not only that the abuse is deserved, but that it’s caused by them.

After the "Tension-building Phase" is the "Battering Phase" where there’s actual abuse. This may include verbal threats, sexual abuse, physical battering or the use of weapons. Fear and blame, as well as social isolation, make it difficult for victims to leave their abusive relationships.

Most people are aware of physical and sexual abuse and the different forms these take. They include, but are not limited to, throwing objects, pushing, or using or threatening with any type of weapon. Sexual violence includes sabotaging birth control or a refusal to follow safer sex practices. Psychological or emotional abuse includes name calling, degradation, threats, social isolation and deprivation of food, money, transportation or access to health care. Destruction of personal property and pet abuse also are other forms of abuse.

For victims of abuse, there are community resources available to help escape abusers. For most victims, they don’t feel that escape is an option for many reasons. Many have been told their abuser will do more harm if they leave, and they fear for their own safety as well as for the safety of their children. They also may have limited skills for supporting their families and may feel they can’t survive without their abuser. Locally, organizations such as Haven House provide a safe place for victims and their children. Victims are given temporary housing, court advocacy and other support. To access Haven House, one only needs to call 911.

Haven House is in need of community support, both financially and through service availability for clients. On Friday, May 11, guests of the first "A Cup of Kindness" luncheon, held at the Ruby Tuesday Lodge, can learn more about domestic violence, as well as enjoy music and a silent auction with all money raised benefiting the organization. Tickets are $30 per person, and if you can’t come, support through advertising or goods and services for the silent auction are appreciated.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or would like to more information about Haven House’s offerings or event, call 865-983-6818.

Dr. Tracie Traver is an obstetrician/ gynecologist with All Women’s Care and Blount Memorial Hospital. She also works with Haven House, a resource available for victims of abuse.

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