Paramedic’s Corner: Empowering adult and child domestic violence victims
By: April York, Fort Leonard Wood Installation Victim Advocate
Posted: Friday, October 2, 2009 12:18 pm
The tension in the air was palpable; in the night a very worried and fearful mother sensed that this time her husband’s rage had the potential to manifest itself into more than the verbal onslaught that she had had to live with up to that point. “I must get out of this house,” thought this desperate woman who had lost hope, “But not without my child!” She rushed to retrieve her still sleeping little girl so she could find safety. Angrily he pursued her, verbally assaulting her with each step he took. Wincing as the words he flung at her cut her to the core, she repeatedly chanted to herself, “Just a few more steps and I’ll reach my precious child and we will leave.” The feel of her young daughter in her arms gave her the inner strength she needed to continue taking those steps towards escape. She turned to leave the bedroom, when he found her. “You aren’t leaving!” spat the husband. “Please! Just let me go so you can cool down,” begged the wife all the while protectively clutching her child. The child hearing the angry words began to stir, the wife tried to sooth the child with gentle whispers. It was at that time she felt the blows reach her. Protectively she cradled the child closer to her and tried to get out of the room, all the while feeling his hands strike her and his feet kick at her legs, the verbal tirades continuing on an unending reel.
Above is a true account of the horrors countless individuals live with on a daily basis, proof of which can be seen in the staggering statistic which reveals that every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is battered. Astoundingly there are more than four million incidents of domestic violence against women reported each year.
Unfortunately, what was not addressed in the above mentioned statistics was the countless number of children who had no other choice but to bear witness to domestic violence. The stark reality is that children who abide in the homes where domestic violence occurs have to witness their parents, the adults, whom they love and depend on; screaming in anger, pleading in fear, sobbing in pain. These children can’t ignore the sound of fists hitting bodies, nor can the child ignore the sound of the impact of the foot kicking the parent who they love. These children cannot hide from the hateful and hurtful words showered down on a person who they love and depend on.
It is important to understand a child’s emotional and social development is closely connected to the safety and nurturing provided within the family environment. The reality is that domestic violence teaches children an individual’s physical and emotional integrity need not be respected. With this in mind, let us revisit the true scenario presented above.
The child whom the mother tried so hard to protect started school. However, within days, much to the mother’s dismay, she was routinely contacted by the school regarding her child’s behavior in the classroom. Almost on a daily basis, the mother read the notes sent home which stated “yelling at others,” “talking mean,” “laughs when in trouble,” and “unkind to others.” The mother knows the root of the behavior yet she dare not reveal it fearing the repercussions and stigma society as a whole can place upon her and her child.
Sadly this mother’s reality is the norm for individuals who are victims of domestic violence, due in part to society’s knee-jerk reaction to blame the victim. Such reactions reveal a lack of awareness society has towards domestic violence, with the end result being that the abused and their children either get overlooked or labeled as having social and/or behavioral issues.
There are countless other families who have their own horror stories hidden within the confines of their hearts, minds and home. We as neighbors, teachers, professionals, friends, family, and community members need to discard the archaic and disparaging mindset mentioned above. In its place we must make a concerted effort to ensure the safety of the victims and their children and help them empower themselves. This empowering action often results in a very liberating experience for victims. Those who want to learn more about ways to empower victims of domestic violence, or if you are in need of assistance with leaving an abusive relationship, you can visit Army Community Service located at 486 Replacement Avenue on Fort Leonard Wood or call (573) 596-0212 and ask for the Family Advocacy Program.