A recent report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV News for Jan. 30 at www.nnedv.org) indicated in 2012, 69 percent of 56 state and territorial domestic violence coalitions experienced cuts in funding, while 88 percent of these coalitions experienced increases in requests for services.
The failure of the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act is mostly responsible for the federal portion of the financial shortfall, but the NNEDV report also cited reductions in state funding and private contributions.
The report said the financial cuts place domestic violence victims in jeopardy. Lingering effects of the economic recession may have contributed to both the increase in need for services and the downturn in private contributions to domestic violence intervention programs.
Domestic violence in rural areas differs from urban areas. In August 2012 Minnesota Public Radio indicated domestic assaults are reported about half as frequently in rural areas, but the actual incidence might be higher than in urban locations.
The Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition says domestic violence in rural areas is underreported because of fear of repercussions from the perpetrator, and sometimes from the local community if a “family secret” were to become public. They cite as additional reasons: inability to obtain transportation away from the scene of the violence, cell phone transmission problems in remote locations, lack of resources such as safe havens and lack of knowledge of who to call for help.
Still other abused people remain with their partners because they are financially dependent on that person, their religious beliefs or cultural expectations require submission or they feel an abusive partner is better than none at all.
Farm crisis telephone hotlines/helplines I have worked with report relationship problems as the most common reason farm residents contact the crisis services. During episodes of financial pressure, the volume of callers increases.
How is domestic violence defined? Domestic violence involves physical abuse and, often, a pattern of controlling behaviors that are directed by a spouse or relationship partner against the other person. It could entail withholding access to money, friends or the telephone.
Research studies indicate 60-90 percent of the time the victims are female. Women are about two-thirds more likely to be injured physically or killed than men. Regardless of who initiates the violence, the male partner is much more likely than the female to be charged as the perpetrator and to be removed from the home. This is because males are usually physically stronger and more likely to commit harm.
In cases where it is dangerous for the victim to remain in the home, the woman and the children usually are protected by judicial restraining orders and offered shelter by domestic violence programs.
Partners in a healthy relationship can argue and resolve disagreements, but the dominant partner in an unhealthy relationship may demand compliance with his or her wishes and use intimidation to secure submission. An abused victim submits out of fear of doing anything that triggers the aggressor’s anger.
That is why law enforcement officials and anyone dealing with domestic violence must be careful to learn the full story and to protect any suspected victim. Perpetrators sometimes disregard restraining orders and surreptitiously stalk their victims.
Sometimes one person sets out to humiliate a partner by attacking that person so that the individual reacts by doing something that can be claimed is abusive and lose face when the incident becomes public knowledge.
Still other couples fight so they can experience the “thrill” of making up. They sometimes stay together even when legal interventions and counseling have been undertaken. The unhealthy relationship usually ends only when one partner has been jailed, injured or killed, or goes into permanent hiding.
Every domestic violence situation is different and physical separation of the partners is almost always necessary.
Long before a physical injury or death has occurred, the victim and sometimes the abuser, has already experienced psychological damage. It becomes harder to trust a partner. Small reminders of violence trigger anxious behaviors.
Children are also seriously impacted by witnessing parents participate in violence. Research shows children tend to copy their parents’ behaviors when they deal with their own relationship conflicts. They might emulate either parent, as a victim or perpetrator.
Help with domestic violence issues is available through at least two national telephone hotlines and websites: 800-799-SAFE (7233), or www.thehotline.org which is the National Domestic Violence Hotline; and 800-621-HOPE (4673) or www.safehorizon.org
The SAFE website has a “quick escape” procedure for helping assure safety from surveillance.
Each state has a domestic violence coalition and a list of regional shelters and other resources that can be found by contacting the national hotlines or websites or by conducting an online search with the words “domestic violence” and the name of your state. Use a public computer so the identity of the user cannot be traced by a perpetrator.
Domestic violence is a case of “better safe than sorry.”
Michael R. Rosmann, Ph.D. serves on the adjunct faculty of the University of Iowa, lectures across the United States and abroad and owns a row crop farm in Harlan, Iowa. He is also a founding partner of the nonprofit network AgriWellness, Inc.
Send your thoughts and questions to him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org – previously published columns are available for a small fee 30 days after they were originally printed, at www.ag behavioralhealth.com