When Domestic Violence Comes to Your Campus
Educators, medical providers and safety and security directors have a moral and legal duty to report suspected and observed abuse.
During the school year, Dawn, little Joey’s mother, comes to his elementary school multiple times with black eyes, bruised jaws, and bruised upper arms. When asked about her injuries, she says she is clumsy and falls down the back steps of her home all the time.
Joey, a fourth grader, attends a presentation on bullying with his classmates. When one student in the tape hits another student, Joey says that is what Frank, Dawn’s new husband, does to his mom all the time. He says it makes him sad.
Dawn is coming to school this afternoon for a conference because Joey, a straight-A student, has been failing math and spelling tests and acting withdrawn. You are prepared to confront Dawn about what you conclude is domestic abuse. Dawn calls you, extremely upbeat, and says she can’t come to the conference because Frank is taking her on a weekend vacation. When you mention this to Joey’s past teachers at lunch, you find out Dawn has exhibited these same injuries and behaviors since Joey’s kindergarten year when Dawn lived with Tom.
You wonder why she would live with two abusive men in a row. This is the cycle of domestic violence. The U.S. Surgeon General has identified domestic violence as a public and personal health problem.
Abuse Can Be a Deadly Cycle
The cycle of domestic violence begins with a honeymoon period. Then tension builds. Then tension escalates to an explosion. Then the cycle repeats itself.
At the beginning of a new relationship a honeymoon period occurs. Everything is perfect. Then unresolved tension builds. In healthy relationships, both parties work to solve problems and lessen tension. In an abusive relationship, an abuser begins to withhold affection, verbally insults and belittles the victim, becomes aggressive, is very critical, drinks excessively or consumes drugs, and has wild mood swings. Eventually the abuser explodes. The abuser hits, chokes, humiliates, confines, and beats his victim, perhaps using a blunt force instrument, an edged weapon or a gun.
Related Article: Study: Schools Lack Student Dating Violence Training
Some better equipped victims leave the relationship after the first explosion and permanently break the cycle of domestic violence, never to repeat it again. Others stay, and the cycle repeats itself. Others leave, but begin the same cycle in a new relationship.
After the explosion comes the honeymoon period with gifts, apologies, promises from the abuser that it will never happen again, tears, begging for forgiveness, and romance and intimacy. Then the tension builds again until the next explosion occurs. While the abuser circles through the honeymoon period, tension building period and next explosion, the victim circles through feelings of love, fear, denial and hope. She also thinks she is losing her grip on reality. If she cannot and does not leave, her idea of what reality is begins to change.
Batterers Try to Control Victims
Battering is a choice. Batterers use violence as a way to exercise power and control over a victim. A victim who is not able to break the cycle may leave her abuser but will repeat the process with abuser after abuser in each successive relationship. Abusers use many tactics to exert power and control over victims.
An abuser mistreats his victim with words by putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, insulting her in front of others, calling her names, making her think she is crazy, humiliating her and making her feel guilty. The abuser isolates his victim by controlling who she can visit, talk to, text or E-mail, when and where she goes, what she does, what she reads, and what she eats and wears. An abuser uses the victim’s minor children to relay threatening messages to the victim, makes the victim afraid she will lose the children, and harasses her about how she cares for the children.
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