Domestic violence includes more than physical abuse

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jim Moser
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Bumps and bruises, black eyes, broken bones, bloody noses and battered dreams. People might think this is a list of makeup requirements for a horror flick or injuries from a rough hockey game.

Unfortunately, it is not. It is a short list of things describing somebody's family life.

One in four American families are affected by domestic violence, and the Air Force is not immune to the problem, according to Safe Haven, Inc., a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

According to Capt. Samantha Blanchard, a family advocacy officer here, the family advocacy office helps people work out any physical or emotional problems they might have to make their family life better. Co-worker Mollye Cash, a family advocacy intervention specialist, said education is the best way to stop family violence.

"People need to know what domestic violence is and what it's not," she said. "It's not a spat between husband and wife over where they are going to dinner. It's a pattern of assault and controlling behavior limiting the activity and independence of another individual."

Cash and Blanchard said physical force is not the only form of abuse. Abuse can take the form of physical violence, emotional and psychological control, economic control and sexual abuse.

Physical violence covers hurting one's partner, children, family, friends or themselves.

"Physical violence is probably the easiest to detect," Cash said. "It can be hard to hide black eyes and broken bones. But physical violence also includes destroying personal property and denying food, fluids and sleep."

Emotional and psychological control is a form of mental abuse and can include name-calling, yelling and put-downs.

Cash said this type of abuse can also take the form of extreme jealousy, humiliating or embarrassing a partner in front of other people and restricting a partner's ability to freely interact with family or friends.

"The damage from emotional abuse can last a lifetime," Cash said.

Economic control covers denying access to family assets such as bank accounts, credit cards or the family car. Blanchard said making the other person in the relationship account for every penny spent beyond the normal budgeting is a sign of this type of abuse.

Sexual abuse includes forcing partners to have sex, making them engage in sexual acts they are not comfortable with or, on the opposite side of the coin, withholding sex from a partner.

The two questions most people ask about domestic violence are "Why did they marry him or her?" and "Why do they stay?"

"I don't think somebody wakes up one morning and says 'I think I'll marry someone who hurts me on a regular basis,'" Blanchard said. "Abuse escalates over time."

As for staying in an abusive relationship, Cash said fear plays a big part, but there are other issues.

"Some people stay because they think their partner will change or somehow the abuse they receive is something they deserve," she said. "For others, it's the lack of a place to go. They have been isolated for so long they have no idea who to turn to for help."

While someone can walk out of a gruesome movie or turn off the TV, victims of domestic violence cannot just turn off their lives.

"If you are in an abusive relationship, there are two things I need to share with you," Cash said. "One: You can't fix the problem by yourself. Both you and your partner need help. Call family advocacy. Two: If you don't get help, the abuse will get worse for you and everybody around you. It will not just go away."

For help or more information about domestic violence, call the nearest family advocacy office. (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)