Raising awareness about domestic violence

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

10/19/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- When punches are thrown, feelings are bruised and the family is crushed, violence within the home becomes a sobering subject.

Domestic violence has the power to seep into any household within the Maxwell community, according to Maxwell's Family Advocacy Officer Beverly Lesyea.

Family advocacy, which intervenes and provides treatment during domestic violence situations, is bringing awareness and prevention through several events scheduled for October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This year's theme is "Voices of Domestic Violence, Poetic Survival."

Maxwell will welcome poet, author and domestic violence survivor, Kimberly Hicks, who uses the pen name Kay Cook, a retired master sergeant, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the Maxwell Event Center. Cook will indicate the early signs of domestic abuse, explain the abusive cycle and demonstrate how to help those who are victims of such situations.

Family advocacy also offers a free self-defense class, led by martial arts black belt Debbie Robison, at noon Oct. 26 at the Maxwell Event Center.

Through other events such as Relationship Bingo, an educational game focusing on creating healthy relationships, and family nurturing programs in the mental health clinic, families can learn about abusive relationships and the resources available to report those situations.

Educating the community is the key to preventing domestic violence, said Daphne O'Hair, Maxwell's domestic abuse victim advocate.

"Teaching adults, teachers, friends, youth and anyone about the warning signs and what to do if your friend is in trouble is vital in the fight against domestic violence," she said. "Giving people a voice to speak up is one of the hardest things to teach but with education it is possible."

How it begins
The cycle of domestic violence can occur within just one day or it may escalate over a period of weeks or months depending upon the relationship.

"Domestic violence doesn't usually start on the first date with a punch to the face in the movie theater," said O'Hair. "Most of the time, emotional abuse is the start of domestic violence: put downs, jealousy, shaming, isolating, threats and more."

Pinpointing exactly when domestic violence begins is a tough task, according to Lesyea, who describes abusive behavior as a "cycle effect."

Cycle of abuse
Though each relationship is different, the three parts of the abusive cycle are consistent.

The first part is the tension phase, where friction is built within the home over money, children or jobs. Abuse usually begins verbally until reaching a climax. This is when phase two - physical violence - occurs. The last stage, called the honeymoon phase, is the expression of remorse by the abuser portraying a kind, loving behavior, with apologies, helpfulness and generosity, promising the abuse will never happen again.

"Imagine a moving circle with one point in the circle being stress or tension, another point is a violent incident, and another point is the honeymoon phase. Those points are moving or chasing each other, and that continues until the cycle is interrupted," describes Lesyea.

Breaking the cycle
The cycle of abuse will continue until someone, sometimes a concerned co-worker, neighbor or family member, suspects an environment of domestic violence and takes action, referring the family to family advocacy. There, families can discover their stressors and ways in which they can deal with them other than abuse.

"If you know the individual, talk to them," said Lesyea. "Find out if they are safe or if someone in their home is hurting them. Talk to the person about getting help and offer them to make the call."

Forms of abuse
O'Hair helped explained the differences between the forms of physical and emotional abuse. Examples of physical violence such as hitting, kicking, shoving, punching, grabbing or even biting are easy to identify.

Harder to report are emotional or verbal and mental abuse involving degradation or belittlement, interrogation or restriction of home access to family members. Sexual abuse, animal abuse, neglect or physical abuse using different objects such as sticks, belts, electrical cords for strangulation, stabbing, burning or poisoning are forms of extreme domestic violence.

Lesyea says the leading cause she finds in domestic violence cases is the need to show dominance over another individual, usually as a result of low self-esteem, jealousy, anger or alcohol abuse.

Military families have more stressors that contribute to domestic violence.

"Families in general deal with many stressful situations; employment, housing, problems with kids in school, alcohol, finances. Military families deal with many of those same situations but add to that, deployment," she said.

This year, Maxwell has not seen a increase or decrease in the number of domestic violence cases.

For more information about events during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, call 953-2434/5055.

Victims of domestic violence can contact the domestic abuse victim advocate at 953-5551. The Maxwell Family Advocacy Program offers restricted reporting to victims who have not informed their chain of command. If a victim is in danger, one should contact the security forces.