The resounding words of your spouse fill your body with anxiety while you try covering the eyes of your child. You fear what will happen next. Will he hit my child or me? Will he leave us with nowhere to go? Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior that can include emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse. It is also defined as a way to gain power over someone or relationship. This abuse is often associated with the impulsive effects of substance use. When combined, the abuse can quickly escalate into partner intimidation and threats that can be hard to escape.
This is the traumatizing reality that many women and children undergo in an abusive and drug infested family. Home, the place where most of us feel the safest, has turned into a living hell where many victims constantly hope for the situation to get better. These vulnerable women and children plead for their aggressor to stop, but it continues. According to Jennifer Hardesty, a University of Illinois Professor, reports that on average, a victim attempts to leave seven times before finally leaving for good. Before they do, they are stuck in the unsafe environment where unfortunately the children are affected the most and left with deep scars. Many victims have no idea where to go or where they will end up with their children, so they make the perilous decision to stay with their victimizer.
Victims are unaware of the possible help that can be granted by the government or services within the community. That being the case, the lack of funds, programs, counselors, free services, and awareness has contributed to this unfortunate situation and has caused many women and their children to be financially and emotionally attached to their abuser. Additionally, many victims abuse of substances, lack housing, financial and emotional support. These lamentable conditions that abused victims experience, will continue to grow in our society, unless our government takes action to tackle down these problems.
We already have the most important tool, our authorities, which include our law enforcement department, health centers, counselors and social workers. Having the resources available, will encourage the victims to report their abuse and find a safe home, but not until something is done about it. The government has not enforced enough laws or free of charge services necessary to provide for victims and should work to establish free housing and counseling and provide them with the necessities to become economically and emotionally independent.
A challenge that many domestic violence victims endure during their abusive relationship is the use of alcohol or drug substances. Studies seem to indicate a connection between substance abuse and domestic violence. The consumption of drugs and alcohol in a home can disrupt family dynamics among any ethnic group and can cause serious marital problems. The award-winning medical writer Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt explains that substance abuse in families tends to lead to increased physical abuse. She later goes on by stating that in 1994 it was estimated that about 10 million American children lived in households with a substance abuser and that a minimum of 675,000 children per year are neglected or abused by drug- or alcohol- dependent caretakers.
Evidently, we can see that domestic violence commonly occurs when the violent individual is also an alcohol or drug abuser. Sadly the ones affected and neglected the most are the children. The user, or possibly the victim herself, steps away from being a responsible parent. Family conflicts can result more than just screams and cries, but can end up being deadly due to the ineffectiveness of the user to control himself under a substance. Children of all ages are prone to this abuse and may experience confusion, anger, and frustration. Tracey R. Bainter explains that Children who witness domestic violence may experience feelings of depression and anxiety, have difficulty interacting with other children, and display increased rates of aggression. If we simply could recognize strange attitudes in children and raise awareness with the help of the government by offering free counseling in schools and funds to educate people about the magnitude of this problem, possibly it can be reduced.
Children are the silent victims of abuse because they are often unable to understand what is going on and why the abuse is happening. Furthermore, the younger ones are the most vulnerable and can develop anxiety and stress that can eventually be a lifelong problem. According to the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, children who see parents or siblings being violent toward one another or who are exposed to this violence first hand, grow up with brains that form differently than children who grow up in households where there is no such violence.
Their mental health is at risk and the defenseless children won’t be as successful in school or activities as their classmates in school are. Simply avoiding the fact that children living in abusive homes are emotionally hurt will just make the situation worse. Children are the future, and they cannot be left behind. They are the ones that suffer the most witnessing their mother or father getting hurt. A safe environment and emotional attention should be provided by the government so abused children can live a dignified life.
Being emotionally torn apart from the inside and physically hurt from the outside has pressured victims to run away from their homes. Unfortunately, once a victim has escaped, she and her children are still host of other problems such as housing and homelessness. According to Kristin Franklin’s encyclopedia, the National Law Center of Homelessness and Poverty conducted a study that indicated that domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness in the nation. She later moved on by saying that victims end up homeless after they are forcibly evicted from or denied housing because of the violence they have survived.
The defenseless victims have nowhere to live and restart their life from scratch. For this reason, it is common for a victim to return to her perpetrator just, so she and her children can have a roof over their head. Kristin Franklin’s encyclopedia also mentions how, nearly half of homeless women, 46 percent, say they stayed in an abusive relationship because they simply had nowhere else to go. And of course, once a victim returns to the home of her abuser, it is much harder for her to leave again. Sadly, this issue has profoundly affected the community of Modesto. I personally experienced this in the Redwood Family Center.
The women living in the center had a really hard time adjusting after leaving an abusive relationship and raising their children on their own. Many of them did not know and were unaware of the services that were available to them, in fact they agreed that the government and local representatives don’t emphasize the problem of domestic violence that is quickly taking over the community. A victim named Joann told me how difficult it was to let go of her abusive ex-husband and how she didn’t want to leave them for the sake of their children. I honestly believed he was the man that would love and provide for my children, and that is why I was afraid to leave him because I had no source of income. she said while looking at her three-year-old child.
Many of the women in the center are afraid of being homeless and taking their kids with them to the streets. Here we can see the lack of economic support that these victims experience after breaking up with their abuser. Victims have a lot on their plate and experience difficulties once they are independent. Robert Hartmann McNamara declares that Intertwined with economic hurdles, battered homeless women must content with safety concerns, isolation from support networks, child custody disputes, and limited educational and employment histories. Many victims are unemployed and have no educational background so expecting them to be succeeding on their own would be a challenge.
Also, they could not provide for their children without any economic help. Leaving them left unattended in the streets would be immoral of us to think. Not only is homelessness a great concern and an issue to the country as a whole, but it affects the most vulnerable individuals that many of the times are denied aid or housing. Governmental help is necessary to intervene with domestic violence cases concerning homelessness, so they can help provide women and children with the basic necessities to live their life peacefully without returning to their aggressor.
A question that I always wondered about is if domestic violence only occurs in economically disadvantaged families. Surprisingly, families in all socioeconomic groups and races may experience domestic violence. Many would expect that only low income families would be victims of abuse, but that is not true. In Tracey R. Bainter’s article, she declares that violence between intimate partners occurs among people at all socioeconomic and educational levels and within all ethnic, racial, religious, age and sexual identity groups.
That being said, domestic violence is in every corner of the country and can affect pretty much any family that is going through a rough time. Perhaps the woman you say hello to every morning or the child that sits in the back of the class is a victim of domestic violence. The problem is we do not know who is a victim and if their life is potentially at risk. Implementing awareness programs in schools, communities, or jobs can make a victim become comfortable to talk to a trusted adult or expert. However, we cannot achieve that if we do not have enough funds to support prevention programs, therefore abused victims feel alone and trapped.
Domestic violence not only destroys families, but also it negatively impacts the economy. The frequency of abuse can worsen factors such as job loss and housing foreclosures. As the violence increases its severity, a weak economy limits options for victims to seek help and safety. According to a study mentioned by Kristin Franklin,about 1.3 million women are victims of some type of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. I would not doubt if those staggering rates would be higher by now. If every woman in that alarming statistic would denounce their abuse, it would cost millions for the nation. Domestic violence is widespread and has serious impacts on women’s health. Its cost to health systems and to society is immense. Yet no other major problem of public health has been so widely ignored.
In Ravneet Kaur’s article, she explains how this problem impacts a nation by saying that violence not only causes physical injury, it also undermines the social, economic, psychological, spiritual and emotional well being of the victim, the perpetrator and the society as a whole. The physical and mental health outcomes have social consequences for the victim, the community, and the society. Family life gets interrupted and physical injuries can end an education or career leading to economic dependence. Victims being failed to be assisted while they try to get back on their feet can potentially worsen their economic situation and can continue the abuse.
An effective response to abuse must address all aspects of a victim’s life. The abused victim was hurt emotionally, physically, and sexually. Programs and services providing check ups and assistance can heal a victim from physical and emotional scars. Also, gender-specific treatments or shelter would be great to provide in communities. According to the American Addiction Centers Resources, A woman who has experienced partner violence at the hands of the opposite sex may feel more comfortable in a all-woman environment. Thus support groups run by women who share similar stories can rebuild self-esteem to get their life back on track. Victims can learn how to cope and manage stress without the use of alcohol or dangerous substances. Tragically, domestic violence and substance abuse are linked and adds more fire to the flame.
Therapy and extensive treatment may be helpful for the victim to not fall back on alcohol or drugs. Sober shelters, such as the Redwood Family Center in Modesto, provides counseling and housing to help victims that have been heavily affected from abuse and drugs. According to Laura Finley, today, many shelters or centers operate under a philosophy that seeks to empower victims to take control of their lives, enacted through services and support towards that goal. A philosophy that the Redwood Center advocates and follows. Unfortunately, communities will have to push their local representatives to offer and initiate programs, and services free of charge as well as shelters that would work towards helping the victim to become economically independent.
The battle against substance abuse is crucial to reduce the frequency of domestic violence. Alcohol and drugs greatly increase the chances of violent behavior and allow the abuser to justify it. According to Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, victims should seek treatment to heal from their abuse and find healthy ways to cope rather than numbing their pain with substance use. Secure and drug free facilities where the patients have no access to substances is a way to escape addiction. Services should be available 24/7 to help abused victims who are struggling with drugs to find better ways to cope with their problems and should be given all the medical attention necessary to quit substance use. Abusers and victims alike must find a way to break the cycle and receive immediate and effective help.
My experience with my service learning gave me a personal perspective what women and children suffer in the hands of an abusive individual. I had no idea that these women continued to struggle even after they had liberated themselves. A woman with the name Macy revealed that the biggest hardship while I was taking substances was being homeless and in an emotionally draining relationship. She also mentioned how the center saved her life and how now she has an optimistic view of her future. All the women in the center were thankful for the angels that saved their lives and occasionally host special events to commemorate the Redwood staff. During one of my last days of my service learning, the women gathered around me and thanked me for the help and support I gave them.
As a young woman and college student, I have a lot to offer, and a couple of hours of dedicating it to an organization like this one can make change. According to Eric M. Anderman, The National Commission on Service-Learning suggest that service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Perhaps service learning can be the solution of many world problems. If young people were to be aware of the magnitude of problems, then volunteering would be a great option for them to open their eyes. Students volunteering in prevention programs or facilities aided by the government may encourage them to push for more incentives in the future.
Abusing an individual should be treated like a violation to human rights. It’s shameful that our country fails to recognize and prevent it. It should be one of our top concerns because domestic violence not only destroys lives, but impacts negatively our economy and our communities. Finding ways to reduce the frequency of domestic violence is a challenge but it is not impossible. There are great solutions that are feasible and cost effectively for the government to implement. As a nation that is seen as the greatest, it fails to focus its attention to the most unfortunate ones. How can we progress as a nation, if we do not have the full support of our government? It would be completely absurd if the people were left alone to do it themselves. We need financial aid to support programs that will change the lives of the victims that have been neglected almost their whole lives.
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