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Standing up to domestic violence

Posted: July 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.

I wrote a Signal piece in May about supporting our Santa Clarita Valley Domestic Violence Center. I had asked our readers to consider donating, supporting, and even being trained as “domestic violence advocates” and help put an end to this secret American epidemic. Our center serves thousands of victims a year.

Center Director Linda Davies and I extend our deepest thanks to the many who responded to the article by offering their support.

Since domestic violence affects about one in four adults at some point in their lifetimes, it is no surprise that so many of you knew exactly about what I had written.

Regarding the prevalence of domestic violence in the U.S., Futures Without Violence reports, “in a single day in 2007, 13,485 children were living in a domestic violence shelter and another 5,526 sought services at a non-residential program.”

Imagine 20,000 children somewhere in this country on any given day in a shelter to escape abuse and torment of a family member.

One has to ask how one or both parents became abusers. How does a parent come to inflict on his or her spouse and children torture, psychological torment, sexual assault, violence, or humiliation?
The answer, not surprisingly, is that when emotional misconduct and violence are experienced as a child — whether as the victim or as a witness — it doubles the probability that as an adult the victim will become victimizer.
Domestic Violence Statistics reports, “The costs of intimate partner violence in the U.S. alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.

“Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.”

To some, the impact of victimization is so powerful that as adults they not only act out, but look forward to violence and seek partners with whom the negative emotions, suffering, coercion, and anguish can be recreated again and again.

Just like a gang member in his 20s who is proudly teaching his 2-year old how to make gang signs, parents imprint behavior on their children.

To many victims it is like someone terrified of riding a roller coaster who is unable to stand up and get off the ride.

What science has observed is simple: violence breeds violence and abuse breeds abuse. Taxpayers are paying billions a year to respond to so-called “family issues.”

Our laws are written for the honest and not the dysfunctional.

We should all participate in helping cure this secret American epidemic:

1) Compel your family, friends and neighbors to call law enforcement if they hear screaming and yelling coming from a residence or if they witness abusive conduct. Not only will a police report start the documentation process, but often badges at the door are a wake-up call to the abusers.

2) Support a change to the California Penal Code section 13700 (a) which defines abuse only as physical. Missing from the legal definition are “causing emotional distress, intimidation, torture, and coercion,” which limits the efforts of police and the judiciary.

3) Implement mandatory reporting of abuse by police agencies to include destroying personal property. Right now, unless the victim presses charges (and they rarely do), law enforcement may choose to ignore obvious signs of abuse and a home in shambles.

4) Support outreach efforts and funding that remove children from homes with domestic violence. Keeping children in a violent home guarantees future generations of abusers. We don’t always want children to be like their parents.

5) Volunteer or donate. My wife and I were among the 11 attendees for the 40-hour training and were just certified as domestic violence advocates.

This outstanding training was useful and will empower anyone who has a good heart, a thick skin, and few hours a week to volunteer.

There will be another advocate class in September. I strongly recommend anyone attend, even if all you hope to accomplish is to learn about the amazing staff and volunteers who serve our often-forgotten neighbors.
Contact Linda Davies at (661) 259-8175 and do whatever you can.

We are all paying the bill for treatment. We might as well implement an antidote.

Jonathan Kraut owns a private investigations firm and serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV and on the SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations.


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