Addressing Domestic Violence with Compassion 













Barriers to Treatment


This issue is particularly salient at this moment. As our economy continues to lack stability, abusive behavior becomes more common and more lasting[4]. 74% of abused individuals elect to stay with an abuser because of economic pressure[5]. And abuse is measurably more violent when economic circumstances are hard. Studies have shown that as social class increases, likelihood for abuse decreases. 10% of relationships facing “high financial strain” are abusive, compared to 2.5% of “low strain” relationships[6]. 


In addition, abusers are motivated psychologically by two primary forces, a “critical inner voice” and a “fantasy bond.” The critical inner voice is a phenomenon of self-critique where an abuser assumes the victim is doubting their power and ability, brought on by the abuser’s own self-doubt[7]. This is heavily supported by White Supremacy and Toxic Masculinity. White males in particular feel the need to use force in order to comply with patriarchal norms. The Fantasy Bond is an unhealthy codependency with a partner or abuser[8]. Both are addressed through key rehabilitation values: self-reflection, self-control, empathy, and tenderness[9]. 



Three Pronged Approach


There are three main strategies that should be employed. First, we need to invest in expanded trauma-informed services available to services, including mental-health services, economic services, and medical services. Second, we need to expand culturally sensitive counseling for abusers in order to break the cycle of abuse[10]. Third, we need to train more professionals to recognize and intervene in both child abuse and domestic abuse situations, using trauma-informed and culturally sensitive tactics. 


It is important to keep in mind that these strategies must go hand-in-hand with complete cultural changes in society. This includes public health, a living wage, affordable housing, and well-funded public education. It also includes dismantling systems that perpetuate violence against people of color or diminish women or values corporations over the people. Abuse stems from power and we will never be able to fully eradicate abusive behavior until our society stops traumatizing the folks who do not have power. The solution to these problems is not heavier policing or stricter sentencing; it is creating a more equitable and compassionate society. The use of force publicly will only perpetuate the use of force privately. 


Funding Domestic Violence Survivor Services 


The Rhode Island State Government is not equipped to provide proper care for survivors of abuse. From the Judiciary to the DCYF, our systems are not set up to fully understand and recognize the trauma that an abuse survivor undergoes. We would be much better served by contracting out services to the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV), an umbrella organization that already provides counseling help, training, legal advice, and prevention work. 


By reallocating $6.5 million from the Department of Corrections proposed $266.5 million 2021 budget, we can ensure that those who need help get it. And the people of Rhode Island can be assured those providing the support from the RICADV and its partner organizations are well equipped to handle this monumental task. 


Mandatory Treatment for Perpetrator


We advocate reallocating a further $2.5 million from the state police’s $89.5 million proposed budget. This investment will undoubtedly reduce crime in the long-term and save the taxpayers money. By creating a dedicated program to help abusers overcome their internal issues, we can break the cycle of abuse. This program must be grounded in taking responsibility for the harm caused. Counseling is not absolution. Rather, counseling is an opportunity to take full control of one’s self and learn to do better in the future. 


Training and Reporting


Finally, dedicating funds to training our educators to recognize and respond appropriately to domestic violence is crucial. If our teachers were both able to spot and involve folks with the proper understanding of domestic violence (mental health experts, social workers), our community’s earlier interventions could have a great impact. Reallocating $2 million from the legislature’s $47 million proposed budget to contract out to organizations to provide mandatory training for teachers during in-service weeks in advance of the school year would achieve this goal.

Further, mandating hospitals to have yearly training for all emergency room personnel to detect signs of abuse will close a major gap in our ability to intervene. Hospitals should be required to have a 24/7 on-call trauma and domestic violence specialist that can provide resources and help to anyone suspected of being in an abusive relationship. 

Diminishing and reducing abuse in our state is possible. It takes compassion and trust in the folks who understand the issue. There is so much that the majority of us do not understand and cannot understand without personal experience. We owe it to our neighbors to invest in their healing and stop actively perpetuating abusive behavior. 


Domestic Violence and Mental Health


Domestic Violence is not a relic of a bygone era. Many members of our community, and womxn especially, face intimate partner violence, abusive behavior, or a controlling relationship. These relationships have a toll on the individual and society far beyond what we see on the surface. Some studies estimate that as many as 90% of survivors face Mental Health issues[1]. Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, Panic Disorders, and Substance Abuse are just some of the trauma-induced repercussions of abuse[2]. For children facing abuse or witnessing abuse, this abusive behavior is more likely to be replicated in future relationships, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. A compassionate society cannot sit idly by and allow abusers to continue and victimize their family and friends. 


If the moral imperative of curbing abuse was not enough, the economic impact of abuse is astronomical. An individual facing abuse is responsible for medical bills, is likely to have attained a lower education, have missed work, have poor credit, and have chronic housing instability. Typically, survivors are paying ⅓ of medical and mental health costs out of pocket. The lifetime average income loss for adolescent abuse survivors is $52,000; this could mean three years of wages lost[3]. Individuals need support and care during this moment of incredible pain and turmoil, not more trauma brought on by economic hardship. 












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© 2020 Friends of Melanie DuPont.

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