June Injury Prevention: Stopping the Cycle of Violence

Stopping the cycle of violence

Abuse: an ugly word for ugly behaviors. There are a number of different types of abuse, but all focus upon power and control over others. This “power” comes from belittling, intimidating or demeaning someone or something perceived to be weaker or less important than the abuser. Abuse is cyclical and goes from generation to generation if it isn’t stopped. In many cases, abusers were abused themselves. By demeaning others emotionally, physically, financially or by bullying, abusers feel worthwhile, important and in control.

The abusive cycle starts with tension building up in the abuser. He or she may feel jealous, anxious or inadequate. Instead of internally dealing with these feelings, the abuser begins to control others by displays of anger, such as yelling or threatening the victim. He or she may hit or physically harm the victim, threaten to kill the victim or to commit suicide.

All of these behaviors control the victim’s behavior to not “cross” the abuser for fear of what may follow. This is effective at tearing down the victim’s sense of independence and self-worth and leads to anxiety, fear, low self esteem or depression if the cycle isn’t stopped. Unfortunately, for many individuals this behavior is explained away as the perpetrator is having a bad day, was just laid off from work or any number of other reasons. The longer the abuse goes unrecognized, the harder it is to disengage from the relationship. Following the abusive behavior comes a harmony where the abuser apologizes and promises to never do it again. This almost never works and only lasts until the abuser once again feels the tension building.

These abusive situations happen in domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. They are generally categorized as forms of physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse. None of these are acceptable or appropriate forms of behavior, especially since they prey on the most vulnerable members of society who are least able to defend themselves. It is often difficult to get the full story from a victim. Their lack of reporting is related to the victim’s reliance on the abuser for needs such as food, clothing, financial support or housing. In the elderly, a family member may be abusive to the elder, but the elder feels that they must maintain a good relationship with the abuser so that they will continue to care for them even if the situation is unbearable. Some elders may be unaware that they are being abused, especially if they are experiencing memory and awareness deficits. Even after the abuse is reported, it may be difficult to investigate without obvious signs or symptoms of the abuse.

Preventing abuse is difficult and requires the help and cooperation of many. Victims need to come forward and report their situation. (Support from other family or friends is very beneficial to the victim.) Alternatively, others who are aware of the situation can also report the situation to the authorities. Without the reports, law enforcement personnel and child or adult protective services have no grounds for action. Reporting can be extremely challenging, especially when the victim is fearful for his or her life or the children’s lives. It is most often achieved with a support network to assist the victims to safety.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, you can contact 211 for available services. Local services also include:

• The Family Safety Center: 918-742-7480; safety concerns
• Domestic Violence Intervention at 918-585-3163; domestic violence issues
• Child Protective Services: 800-522-3511; child abuse
• Adult Protective Services: 918-824-4900; vulnerable adults including those with developmental disabilities, as well as and the elderly

All of these numbers offer access to necessary resources for reporting abuse.

Now is the time to stop abuse, and this can be done with everyone working together to protect those who are in this vicious cycle.

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