BATH – We have much to be proud of in our relatively short battle against domestic violence.

Huge strides have been made in enforcement, prosecution, sanctions, advocacy, training and public awareness. Each of these are essential ingredients for the comprehensive approach of combating this social scourge.

Where we fall short however, is the incessant blaming, finger-pointing and justifying the behavior.

I am not talking about the dedicated professionals who are knee deep in the muck of domestic violence attempting to accomplish the tasks previously mentioned.

The people I am referring to are the general public; our friends, relatives and neighbors who feel compelled to offer commentary on the state of affairs of domestic violence.

Otherwise intelligent and learned individuals somehow believe domestic abuse is caused by such influences as the full moon, holiday stress, bad economy, lousy weather or furry caterpillars. OK, the last one was a little facetious, but you know what I am getting at.

ABUSE IS AN ATTITUDE

Let’s be frank here. Domestic violence isn’t caused, it exists. It exists in the hearts, minds and souls of a select group of our fellow men who feel the need or compulsion to resort to violence to achieve their selected goals.

For each person who batters, there exists a rationale unique to their circumstances. For some it is a calculated and strategic approach in maintaining complete control of the actions of another.

If you have ever seen or heard about the “Power and Control Wheel,” then you will understand the motivations of these individuals. For those abusers who fall within this category, the tools available are endless and powerful. Financial restrictions, isolation, male privilege, sex and child custody are just a few of the means by which individuals hold court and maintain authority, power and control over others.

A common response I hear from victims of domestic violence is, “This is the first time he has hit me.” This may be true, but sadly, the abuse has gone on for years. A common phrase I use in these situations is that not all abuse is violent.

When I share with these victims the various forms abuse can take, I receive a wide range of reactions. Some are angry at the abuser, some angry at me for pointing out the truth they have tried so hard to suppress and for many others the light finally comes on with the realization of the situation they are in.

I still get those who refuse to acknowledge they are in abusive relationships despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

For these individuals, I attempt to paint a picture clearly showing the level of elevating abuse perpetrated on them over time.

I lay out a scenario that shows a pattern of abuse that begins somewhat benignly but escalates to physicality. My goal is to show how violence is simply the next rung on the domestic abuse ladder.

There is another group of batterers with a much different agenda; they have none. These individuals lack the ability for rational thought or civil reasoning and react with force or violence in the natural course of events.

Their emotional toolbags tend to be void of resources. Just because they may lack evil intent, however, they are no less dangerous nor should they be granted any sympathy or excuses provided them.

Then of course there are the victims. I believe there are as many stereotypical opinions and public sentiment about abused women as for those that perpetrate the abuse.

As mentioned previously, many are quick to supply what seem to be logical explanations and excuses to rationalize domestic abuse and its perpetrators.

VICTIMS DON’T DESERVE IT

When one mentions the victims of abuse, the tone takes on a much more accusatory flavor, frequently blaming the victims for the abuse or at minimum criticizing them for not exiting the abusive environment.

Violence of any kind affects us all to some degree. Ignoring violence or pretending it does not exist doesn’t make it go away. Justifying the behavior or blaming the victim only emboldens those who abuse.

The battle against violence in our society cannot be successfully fought by just those in the trenches. Until all of us have had enough and are willing to take a stand and hold batterers accountable, the battles will linger.

Quoting Gandhi, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”