Domestic Violence Awareness Month: There is help available

  • Published
  • By LaWann Butler
  • 1st Special Operation Medical Group
What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners or former partners to establish power and control. It may include physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse. It may also include threats, isolation, pet abuse, using children and a variety of other behaviors used to maintain fear, intimidation and power over one's partner. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It occurs in intimate relationships, regardless of race, religion, culture or socioeconomic status.

Domestic abuse is a serious issue that affects many families in our civilian and military community. Domestic abuse can happen in any couple relationship. Both men and women may be victims of domestic abuse offenders. If you are in an abusive relationship or if something about your relationship with your partner scare you and you need someone to talk to call 881-5061.

Child abuse is often present in domestic violence situations. Research indicates that merely witnessing domestic violence can have profound effects on children. Childhood exposure to domestic violence is associated with increased aggression, depression and anxiety, lower levels of social competence and poorer academic functioning. "Family violence threatens child" is the alleged maltreatment most reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline every year. Childhood exposure to family violence also significantly increases the likelihood of either perpetrating or being the victim of violence as an adult.

The effects of violence are visible in the burdens placed upon our health care, educational, social service, child welfare, and criminal justice systems and in the workplace.

How can you tell if you are being abused?

The most difficult step for you to take is to actually admit that you are being abused by your partner. However, admission is the first step necessary in finding your way out of an abusive relationship. How can you tell if you are being abused? Ask yourself these questions:

Does your partner prevent you from seeing your family or friends?

Does your partner constantly criticize you and your abilities?

Does your partner intimidate or threaten you?

Does your partner hit, punch, slap, or kick you?

If you have a gun in your home, has your partner ever threatened to use it?

Has your partner ever prevented you from leaving the house, getting a job, or continuing your education?

Has your partner ever destroyed things that you cared about?

Has your partner ever forced you to have sex or forced you to engage in sex that makes you feel uncomfortable?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you should seek professional help because you may be in an abusive relationship. Millions of men and women are struggling with similar difficulties. Perhaps you and your partner can work through these problems. But if you feel you're in danger, you owe it to yourself to seek help and support. 

The Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate (VA) Can Help Ensure Victims Safety

The Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate (VA) is available to offer a victim support in identifying concerns surrounding safety, emotional support, help with obtaining injunctions, legal rights, referrals and resources.

For Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy (VA) services for civilian or active duty members, contact Nancy Paddock every Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at (850) 797-5388 or the Family Advocacy office at 881-5061.

In addition, there is always an on-call Domestic Violence Victim Advocate available to respond after duty hours. They may be reached at 797-4012. They provide the following services:

Ensure 24 hour of services to victim

Serves as a liaison for the victim and CC/CCF 

Give information to victims about their rights and resources

Provide encouragement to help victims evaluate their options with making their own decisions

Accompany victims to legal assistance, court hearings, medical exams, and injunction filings

Offers DV education awareness and prevention for individual and group

Referral to FAP for treatment and intervention

Most important VA service is safety planning

Early Intervention Can:

Address important family life issues before they reach a crisis state

Prevent and decrease family violence

Identify the need for intervention and link to appropriate services

Decrease family violence and impact on mission readiness

Decrease loss of active duty work time

Promote respect for duty and family

Support mission and family readiness

How can you help?

If you know someone being abused -- do not look the other way. You can respond anonymously by calling 881-5061.

In addition, there are several things you can do to help. They include:

Let them know you are concerned about them.

Offer to listen.

Respect their choices, but encourage them to talk with professionals about safety issues.

Leaving the abusive situation is also a very dangerous time.

Offer as much help as you can, but do not take risks with your own safety. Examples of help: child care, transportation, a place to stay, a job, lending money, a place to keep their escape bag. An escape bag is a bag filled with things needed in case the victim decides to leave. For example: identification; birth certificate and Social Security cards for self and children; checkbook; extra car, house, storage or other keys; address book/phone numbers; school and medical records; car, health and life insurance papers; divorce, custody or injunction papers; change of clothes; pictures, jewelry and keepsakes; personal hygiene products; picture of abuser (to use to serve court papers); etc.

Have a Safety Plan

If you are in an abusive relationship, be prepared to get away. Here are few suggestions to properly prepare yourself:

Keep with someone you trust; a spare set of keys, a set of clothes, important papers, prescriptions and some money.

Keep any evidence of physical abuse (ripped clothes, photo of bruises and injuries, etc.).

Plan the safest time to get away.

Know where you can go for help. Tell someone what is happening to you. Have the phone numbers of friends, relatives and domestic violence shelters with you.

Call the police if you are in danger and need help

If you are injured, go to the hospital emergency room or doctor and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.

Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them; a room with a lock or a neighbor's house where they can go for help. Reassure them their job is to stay safe, not protect you.

Arrange a signal with a neighbor, i.e., if the porch light is on, call the police.

With concerted effort, we can all help decrease the amount of domestic violence incidents that occur.