What I Learned at the Domestic Violence Summit
By Neal Lemery
Tillamook County Women’s Resource Center, sponsor
Tillamook Bay Community College, September 9-10, 2010
“Domestic violence is the well spring of all criminal behavior.”
One out of three women are victims of domestic violence. This is shown in a Tillamook County survey and is also true nationally. One fourth of all police calls involve domestic violence issues. The Center for Disease Control has concluded domestic violence is the number one public health issue nationwide.
The mentality of the batterer: the circumstances justify the violence. There is a feeling of having no other alternative.
Domestic violence is domestic terrorism. 2,000 women a year are killed in the US each year from domestic violence. The “ripple effect” of physically injured people and psychologically injured people is enormous.
2/3 of batterers do not have violence or control issues outside of their domestic relationships.
1/6 of men are abusers.
The Impact on the Community
Terror. Depression, being afraid, experiencing pain.
There are lasting mental health problems. The abuser has a victim’s persona against violence. Thus, they will argue they should, for example, have custody of children because they are the victim of the victim’s reaction against perceived violence.
Employment. Lost time from work, lower productivity, experiencing fear while at work.
Children. Children who witness and experience domestic violence have higher rates of attachment disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
The community colludes by saying that there are simple solutions to domestic violence (“just get over it”, “stop it”). The issues are much more complex, deep, and far reaching.
Kids learn by modeled behavior. (“Don’t do what I do, do what I say”)
There is a strong correlation between bullying behavior and domestic violence in the home. For some, being a bully is acting out after experiencing domestic violence at home.
Health care costs
There are subtle community values:
“Women cause violence”
Accepting use of certain exercises of power, such as bullying, and money as an exercise of power.
Refusing to impose consequences. Jail improves a decrease in recidivism.
Diversion is a disaster.
Reluctance to take guns away.
“Easier to focus on her”
“Easier to change her”
We tend to tell the victim what to do and how to be. “You should figure out what is bothering him.”
Degenderizing domestic violence
We pretend to know the answer, to oversimplify.
We are silent
(including acquiescing in or laughing at demeaning jokes)
Men are silent with each other
What we need:
Restitution for medical costs, property damage
Child visitation: supervised
Change in cultural values
How we talk about women
How we raise boys
What a child concludes about domestic violence and the situation in which domestic violence occurs is critical. (“It’s not Mom’s fault.”)
Society needs to say “no custody” to the batterer, and not
Barcroft, Lundy. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Berkley Books, New York (2002)
Barcroft, Lundy, When Dad Hurts Mom
Barcroft, Lundy, Parenting
Working With Men
He is a domestic violence worker in Grants Pass. He leads men’s groups in local high schools, where the discussion centers around how to be a man and how young men can be leaders of men.
The national Fatherhood Initiative is a grant stream of federal funded projects.
Jackson Katz and Paul Kivel are writers and leaders in developing healthy manhood for young men. Jackson Katz wrote Tough Guy. Paul Kivel, of the Oakland (CA) Men’s Project, wrote Men’s Work.
The groups are up to fifteen high school men. It works best if the men come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The goal is to build community.
Give them an “out”. Require that they only attend three sessions, and can then leave.
Put them at ease. No hugs, and don’t have them do stuff that they feel is uncomfortable.
Commit yourself as a leader. Show up on time, every time. A lot of men in their lives have abandoned them.
Is this prevention or risk reduction? By helping the victim, we reduce risk. By helping the potential batterer, we practice prevention.
The leader has to believe in the inherent goodness of all people.
Achieve an agreement. What are the rules of the group? How does the group operate. Have the group develop the rules. Confidentiality will be their first rule. The group has to own the rules, so the group needs to develop the rules. The rules create a safe environment to deal with difficult issues. (safety: safe to be able to reveal weakness and doubt and ask hard questions.)
What do young men want out of life? To be their own man. Not someone else’s, and not to let someone else run their life. Some men are traveling the wrong road, and they want to get off and get on the right road. Why some men are violent is a common question and a common dilemma.
Play “two lies and a truth”. They want to reveal truth about themselves and they want to participate in these deep discussions. To develop credibility and to model the process, the facilitator reveals something about himself. Trust is developed.
The rules (see Jackson Katz and Paul Kivel for the list), includes confidentiality, let people speak; try on the process, the right to pass, getting people to share. No put downs (this forum is safe), respect in listening, using “I” statements.
In the second meeting, talk about power. Who’s got the power in their lives? A lot of people. Big power and little power. Big power lords it over little power. You exercise power over those who have less power than you.
Third class. Word game. The class labels the word as masculine or feminine. English doesn’t have genderized words, unlike Spanish or French. But, there are feeling words and other words with emotional connotations that we instinctive know, in our culture, as masculine or feminine.
Our culture holds young men to those “masculine word traits” and bars them from expressing and living those “feminine” words as their traits.
Create a list of “man words” and “woman words”. Draw a box around the “man words” and you have a “man box”. Guys will then see how culture puts their “acceptable” emotions and feelings into a box. Guys can feel they are stuck in the box, and cannot have other socially acceptable feelings and emotions. This creates conflict and stress and a sense of frustration and hopelessness. How do I get out of the box?
Preventing Long Term Trauma in the
Aftermath of Violence
Unresolved trauma negatively impacts individual and community health and mental health, our quality of life, our ability to be effective in our work, and our capacity to create just societies.
“…in every nook and cranny of our lives”
We are hard wired for healing. We can heal outward, but there needs to be internal healing, too. Time does not heal, but when you are in the midst of caring, supportive people, then you heal.
The trauma framework. We should shift our perspective from “what’s wrong” to “what happened”. If you are healing, you have gifts to offer, and you know what healing looks like.
How we get hurt.
Accident: things happen
Abuse/violence: intentional, patterned
Oppression: systematic, institutional mistreatment of one group by another
Contagion/hypnotic – this is historical, internalized trauma. We sometimes carry trauma that is intergenerational, cultural.
The fundamental injury is disconnection
Trauma is truly a community problem, not a mental health problem.
“Trauma occurs in layers, with each layer affecting every other layer. Current trauma is one layer. Former traumas in one’s life are more fundamental layers. Underlying one’s one individual trauma history is one’s group identity or identities, and the historical trauma with which they are associated.” Bonnie Burstow.
Trauma is both the injury and the wound.
Often, attention is given to one but not the other. Effective responses should address both and address the intersection of both.
“Trauma is not a disorder, but a reaction to a kind of wound. It is a reaction to profoundly injurious events and situations in the real world, and, indeed, to a world in which people are routinely wounded.
“Trauma is a concrete physical, cognitive, affective, and spiritual response by individuals and communities to events and situations that are objectively traumatizing. On a simple level, for the most part, people feel traumatized or wounded because they have been wounded.” (my emphasis)
Impact of trauma:
Primary distress is the immediate experience.
Long term exposure
Post traumatic stress reactions
Affective, dissociation and anxiety
Often labeled “borderline personality”
When people have never had power, they act differently and respond differently. There is a lack of childhood development.
In trauma, there is the flight or fight reaction. Or, we may freeze
Frontal lobe development may be impaired
Processing is non linear
(the “story” is told without a chronological time line)
How we store the trauma in our memory depends on what stage of
development we are at at the time of the trauma.
Thus, the kind of trauma and the age of occurrence are significant.
If we are not allowed to heal, we can experience denial or lack of memory, avoidance, altered belief systems, addiction and compulsion, depression and numbness, violence and aggression, risk taking, and self abuse. (If these are present, it is very likely that we have experienced abuse.)
The consequences are emotional, physical, developmental, social, individual and collective.
So, our responses must also be emotional, physical, developmental, social, individual and collective.
To heal, we need a supportive environment. The relationships between many social problems and trauma are complex. There needs to be all encompassing and systemic support for healing.
Trauma is also stored in our bodies, as a “physical memory”. Research shows that yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and other physical meditative practices can release traumatic feelings and memories.
To heal, we need to feel connected, being present.
Guiding principles for intervening: Safety, empowerment and action, advocacy and liberation, and accountability and justice. What is my responsibility?
Telling the Story. The quality of listening is critical. Listening is most important. Being believed and not judged, being allowed to name the experience, moving (physically and emotionally), being supported to participate in public rituals for taking action and expressing grief and outrage, being supported to become or stay connected, being supported to reclaim personal, community, or national space.
“Start with the assumption that all human beings are intact and deserving of respect. The most important thing you can do is listen. No interruptions. No sounds. Just listen. That implies that the survivor has all the power back in their court and can do with it what they choose.”
-- a survivor
How Religious and Secular Communities Can Work Together
Rev. Marie Fortune
Domestic terrorism is living in fear in your own home. Terror is constant. Violence is sporadic, and the community supports the view that domestic violence is “merely” violence, as if you don’t see the violence, is there a problem?
There is collusion, from the faith community, when Scripture is misapplied, misconstrued, and is used as a justification. There is collusion when the community supports men’s control over the family.
What is the message to the community?
Esther Barnes, The Good Stranger
We need to redefine behavior from normative, to deviant
The effective penalty: expensive, shameful
Fundamentally, it is a code of hospitality. In Hebrew culture, and in Mideastern cultures generally, hospitality was the core of social value. The desert was harsh and often fatal. The core of a just society was to welcome strangers, and offer them what you had, at the oasis (water, food, shelter, community, safety).
All of society is responsible to strangers, widows, and orphans
The power of society is that life circumstances can create a great need, and only society can fulfill that need.
The message of the Old Testament and the Gospels is love.
We need to reshape the norms of our society. We need to re-create norms and redefine norms.
One person at a time.
Silence is isolating. We need to be vocal.