Domestic Violence(DV)



Legal Definitions

DV generally must be between family members, persons who live(d) together or dated; generally you must be physically harmed or put into fear that you will be harmed soon; it is also DV if someone does things to you without a legitimate reason that are very annoying or alarming and it makes you very worried about yourself or your child and has significant harmful effects on you and a normal person would have the same reaction — see RCW 26.50.010.  Acts of DV can trigger restrictions on a parent’s time with the children under a Parenting Plan.

Causes, Indications, Cycle of Abuse

The abuser is dependent on the victim; that is why the abuser is afraid of the victim becoming independent.  The abuser wants to control things, and will use put-downs, threats, repeatedly checking on the victim, separating the victim from friends, cutting off access to money, etc.  The victim will be afraid, walking on eggshells, does not want the abuser’s temper to explode.  The cycle typically is:  calm and getting along, then tension and fear increasing, then DV happens, followed by apologies and promises not to happen again along with gifts or gestures of love.  During this cycle, the abuser still mostly wants to control things, and is sorry about being confronted rather than having genuine concern for the victim, and soon begins to resent the victim and plan for the next opportunity for the victim to “mess up” in order to repeat the DV.  The victim has low self-esteem; when the abuser treats them poorly, this actually fits the victim’s own self-view and is a stable pattern which both abuser and victim gravitate toward. The victim may have self-blame, feelings of guilt, responsibility, and learned helplessness, leading to depression/passivity and anxiety.  The concept of Battered Women’s Syndrome illustrates that in some cases DV trauma can have a lasting effect and be re-experienced later, similar to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), causing the person to avoid certain situations or personalities, resulting in body image problems, sexual and intimacy issues, etc.

Broader Context

The family unit is a microcosm for peace and anxiety in our world and across cultures.  Experiments continue to show the central role of stress.  In addition to genetics, a growing body of evidence suggests that stress in the womb can lead to illness later in life – see Dutch Famine of 1944-45 study.  The role of glucocorticoids continues to be studied.  Though oversimplified, it seems likely that extreme parental stress may correlate with problems for a son or daughter in the next generation, manifested as depression/anxiety, eating disorders, self-esteem issues, rage, jealousy, control issues, narcissism, judging/blaming, etc.  When the child matures to adult, unresolved issues may contribute to dysfunction in the home or at work.  Workplace stress tied to lack of empowerment may lead to taking out feelings of frustration and inadequacy on one’s family — See National Geographic Documentary, Stress:  Portrait of a Killer.  The dysfunction often expresses as drug/alchohol/sex addiction, workaholism, compulsive shopping or other compulsive disorders including hoarding, as well as ADD / ADHD, etc.  See e.g. PBS Documentary:  ADD and Loving It.  The Child-Now-Adult becomes the new Aggressor or Victim in the household, continuing the cycle for yet another generation.  Family Systems Therapy may be helpful in understanding family dynamics; of central importance is for the child to properly separate from the parents, yet retain family relatedness — see, e.g. Transgenerational Family Therapies by Laura Giat Roberto, Guilford Press © 1992. Medication is helpful in many cases.  While psychoanalysis has its place, evidenced based treatment therapy is promising.  After pursuing the medication route, many have achieved great progress in the group therapy context, whether it involve a 12-step process, role-playing, etc.  Religious / spiritual healing, meditation, consciously focusing on the present (rather than past real or imagined injuries and suffering, or obsessing about future worries), learned optimism, substituting positive activities for harmful ones, finding purpose through work, helping or volunteering in the community — these are some things which may help fill the void or emptiness that most all of us experience at points in our lives.  Just as we see the passing of negativity and destruction down the generational line, so also can positivity and creativity reverse the trend.

Emergency Help / Resources

For emergencies call 911.  In King County WA see Eastside Domestic Violence, 1-800-827-8840; DAWN, (425) 656-7867; Salvation Army Booth House emergency shelter, (206) 324-4943.  See also:  http://www.seattle.gov/law/domestic_violence/community_resources.htm.  See also King County Protection Order Advocacy Program:  http://protectionorder.org/.