Domestic violence is nothing new in our society and once you begin your Practicum and start working with clients it will become very apparent to you how pervasive it is in our communities regardless of race, class or culture. Domestic violence is a cycle of power and control. Perpetrators will use physical violence, manipulate emotional insecurities, or use financial dependence as a means to exert their power to control their victims.
When working with this population often the biggest hurdle is getting them to the point where they are emotionally strong enough to begin the process of advocating for themselves. Typically some combination of shame, fear and denial prevent victims from acknowledging their abuse. Additionally, if the abuse is emotional or financial and not physical, clients often do not consider themselves victims of domestic violence and will often be offended at the suggestion or say “at least he’s hitting me.”
While there is currently no Domestic Violence course offering available in the MFT program at Fairfield U., MFT students preparing for clinical placement should educate themselves about Domestic Violence — perpetrators, victims, and it’s effect on children. One excellent resource is called Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
So during this month of heightened awareness, if you or someone you know, or one of your clients is a victim of domestic violence please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get information about receiving help in your area 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or click the following link http://www.ndvh.org/get-help/help-in-your-area/
Other statewide resources include:
Center for Women and Familes of Eastern Fairfied County http://www.cwfefc.org/
Domestic Violence Crisis Center http://www.dvccct.org/
Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury http://www.safehavengw.org/
Interval House http://www.intervalhousect.org/
I’m sure that it comes as no surprise to most of us who spend our days in agencies making referrals to the various Centers for Women and Families, that domestic violence is rising at an alarming rate. At a recent presentation for Bishop Lori of the Arch Diocese of Bridgeport, the director of Catholic Charities mental health agency in Bridgeport reported that referrals to his agency for DV related issues have increased by 400% in the last year. The DV department at FSW Inc. also in Bridgeport, has a waiting list for referrals needing a Spanish speaking clinician, and can barely meet the demand of the English speaking referrals. Undoubtedly agencies all over the state and likely all over the country are struggling to meet the needs of this increasing population.
A September 2004 study released by the National Institute of Justice, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, revealed that:
- Women whose male partners experienced two or more periods of unemployment over the five-year course of the study were three times more likely to be abused.
- Couples under “extensive financial strain” had triple the domestic violence rate of others.
- Women in low-income neighborhoods are “substantially more likely” to be repeatedly injured by male partners.
The study “found a strong link between intimate violence and the economic well-being of couples and the communities in which they live.”
Financial difficulties do not cause the violence but they definitely make the stress in the family worse and give abusers another reason to harm their victims. Even in the middle class and affluent communities of Connecticut, where families that once rode the wave of financial security through employment at investment banks and other financial institutions and are for the first time finding themselves unable to pay their high mortgages and are watching their standard of living sharply decline; are reporting higher incidences and severity of domestic violence. Whether working with poor women in urban communities or with middle or upper class women in suburban communities, domestic violence stretches across all racial and socio-economic lines. More services for victims and families are needed as is better advocacy and resources so that victims don’t feel compelled to stay with their abusers becuase of employment or housing. As MFT’s we are also aware of the effects of DV on the larger family system especially the children, who suffer severe and often long-term symptoms of anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, etc. as a result of witnessing domestic violence in the home.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get information about receiving help in your area 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or click the following link http://www.ndvh.org/get-help/help-in-your-area/