This month, CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties will be focusing on domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.”
Eighty five percent of domestic violence victims are women.
Each year, approximately 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner.
Emotionally abusive and controlling behavior are often accompanied with violence toward women. Unfortunately, domestic violence can take place for generations and can last a lifetime.
For children, observing violence between one’s parents or guardians can be devastating. This can lead to psychological problems, slower cognitive development, and the risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence in the future. [Source]
Thirty to 60 percent of individuals who abuse their intimate partner also abuse children living in the same home.
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Recently Lisa Firestone, a psychology expert on relationships, parenting, and self-destructive thoughts, contributed to the Huffington Post’s blog with her post, “Why Domestic Violence Occurs and How to Stop it.”
She provides a startling statistic: “74 percent of women stayed with an abuser longer for economic reasons, [and] 58 percent of shelters reported that the abuse is more violent now than before the economic downturn.”
From her research, Firestone found that psychological issues are a greater cause of domestic violence than financial problems. She notes two contributing factors:
1. Destructive thoughts
2. The illusion of a “fantasy bond”
Addressing the first issue, Firestone points out that in our society, men often feel the need to be stronger and more powerful than women. (She makes it a point to note, however, that men are also victims of domestic violence; they account for 15 percent).
“Being challenged by a relationship partner can be distressing, arousing fear and anger for some people,” she writes. This can lead to the destructive thoughts, which involves negative self talk and also aiming negative comments at one’s partner. When a person’s cognitive process is filled with thoughts such as–“She/he is controlling you. Don’t let her/him act like you are weak”–this can trigger violent behavior.
In addition to these destructive thoughts is the “fantasy bond,” or a couple’s idea that they cannot live without each other. Believing this type of connection exists within the abusive relationship makes it difficult for an individual to leave and seek help. What’s worse, staying in an abusive relationship further perpetuates the abuse.
How can the cycle of domestic violence be stopped?
Firestone suggests re-education programs, such as San Francisco’s Manalive program. Manalive helps individuals learn to recognize their feelings, acknowledge their behavior, understand what triggers them, and learn when to step back before acting out in violence. According to Firestone, a good rehabilitation program should focus on self-reflection, self-control, and empathy, allowing individuals to become resilient and more apt to show love and affection for their families.