Let’s talk … about abuse | Editor's Note

By Laura Daniali | Mar 26, 2015

It’s been eight weeks since we began our series on domestic violence, and my view of domestic violence – the perspectives of the victims, the abusers and the community – has shifted.

If you asked me in February to give you the first image that popped in my head if you were to say “domestic violence,” it would have been of an angry man physically abusing a woman – her hands covering her face; she’s crying and begging for it to stop.

If you asked me today, the woman is there – but with her are children and men and the elderly and even pets, who are sometimes last in the pecking order.

There are moments in covering this topic that stand out from the rest – like in life – and that were pivotal to me.

When Lisa Campbell, a legal advocate for Domestic Violence Services, stood in front of a group of abusers and said that by the time abuse has turned physical, there has usually been a build-up of other forms of abuse, my mental image of domestic violence was altered.

She covered a list of forms of abuse like psychological abuse, which can include intimidation, mind games and threats, constant “checking up,” emotional abuse including name calling, constant criticism and the use of children as spies or pawns, and economic abuse where the abuser has full control over finances – none involved anything physical.

When a letter from a man, who had witnessed and been the victim of abuse as a child by his mother, was dropped off at the Beacon Publishing office in Mukilteo – my heart weighed heavy.

He commended us for taking on an important moral, social and legal issue, but felt our coverage showed a bias toward women as victims through words and statistics.

“The unfortunate effect of this imbalance of coverage is to marginalize the importance of tackling the many under-the-radar aspects of male victims,” he said.

He is correct in saying there are many under-the-radar aspects of abuse toward male victims, and statistics can be skewed based on how the numbers were gathered.

He also said while Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County’s name change from the Center for Battered Women is progress, more needs to be done to help men who have been the victims of abuse overcome the cultural pressures that discourage them from asking for help.

No real headway will be made on family violence until abusers of both sexes are treated in greater numbers, he said.

My hope for the series is that we have made some headway and opened the door for discussion.

The rule of thumb is it takes 21 days to change a habit or pattern of thinking. For me, it took three stories.

Three stories that I wrote with moments of hesitation (Would I be able to give a voice to everyone? And authentically?), moments of tears when I walked away from my laptop at 4:30 in the morning, and moments of anger fueled by the thought that as sophisticated as we are as a society, we are still living in a world where people are made to feel less than.

But here’s the deal: That’s nothing.

This is what’s happening: Men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults in the U.S., one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime, and more than 60 percent of domestic violence incidents happen at home, according to Safe Horizon, the largest victims’ services agency in the U.S.

The conversation has begun, but it is far from over.

There are more stories to tell, including how domestic violence impacts the LGBTQ community, the impact on men who are victims of abuse, and abuse toward those with dementia and other mental health problems – to name a few.

I am always hesitant to speak in absolutes, but I can tell you this – domestic violence affects us all.

Please keep the conversation going, have hope and find the strength to seek help if you need it, or reach out to someone in need of help.

A special thanks to those who thoughtfully answered my questions and helped in telling the stories that need to be told: Vicci Hilty of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, Karla Potter of DVS, Carole Schettler of DVS, Legal Advocate Lisa Campbell of DVS, Detective Stacie Trykar of the Edmonds Police Department, Officer Craig Bartl of the Marysville Police Department, Domestic Violence Coordinator Jill Schick, Lori Stevens of Senior Services of Snohomish County, Phil Nichols of Evergreen Manor, and Becca Verda and Joanne Maher of the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

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