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Carbondale, PA
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Community Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence

          Each year an estimated two million to four million women are abused by their male partners.  Many of them are severely physically assaulted, and thousands are killed.  Others are intimidated, isolated, humiliated and controlled by their partners, usually in silence.  Domestic violence isn’t an easy crime to report, because survivors often feel ashamed, helpless and dependent on the perpetrator.  But there are resources available to help people escape abusive situations permanently.

          “There are many reasons why people don’t admit that they are in abusive relationships, but the biggest factor is probably fear”, relates Carol McGlone, MSW, LSW, director of the Social Work Department at Marian Community Hospital.  “A woman may have been beaten down and intimidated to the point where she feels as though no one is going to believe her, or no one will help her if she tells about the abuse.”

          Many women also get caught in what is referred to as a “cycle of violence”.  After a violent episode, the abuser will typically be very apologetic and loving, even showering his partner with gifts and promises that things will get better.  And then he abuses her again.  Typically, each time it happens the abuse becomes worse and the cycle becomes shorter.  But often the abuser is the woman’s main or sole, source of financial support and affection, so she gets stuck in cycle.  It is particularly hard for people who have been victims their whole lives that the abuse isn’t normal.  Often they simply don’t know anything different.

          “Domestic violence is not about loss of temper,” according to the social worker.  “Domestic violence is about controlling someone.  There is no stereotypical abuser.  Abusers come from all walks of life.  They haven’t necessarily been abused as children, they aren’t from a certain socioeconomic groups and most don’t have a major mental illness.  What they have on common is the need to control.”

          While women are very hesitant to report the abuse situation, they often seek out medical help, either for symptoms directly related to an abuse or prompted by stress.  While some abuse situations are very apparent by the nature of the injuries, many more women are treated in doctors’ offices and emergency departments daily and silently suffer from abuse.  One arena that remains accessible to women is the health care community.

“There is growing support locally and nationally for the healthcare community to take a more proactive role in recognizing signs of abuse and helping people who are in abusive situations,” added the social worker.  “With training, support and knowledge of the area’s support systems, medical personnel can ‘open a window’ for victims so they can begin to take back control of their lives.”

          “Certainly each abuse situation is different and unique,” relates Carol Shoener, Women’s Resource Center Domestic Violence Service Coordinator.  “People need to understand that leaving an abusive relationship is a process, not an event, that may become long and drawn-out.  Statistics show that the average battered woman leaves the relationship seven times before she leaves for good.  This can be very frustrating for her relatives and friends.  But it is important to understand that only the person in the abusive relationship can decide when the time is right to leave.”

          “Breaking the isolation and understanding options is important for any woman in an abusive situation,” added Ms. Shoener.  “The first step is making contact with a supportive individual or the Women’s Resource Center for information and support.  The Women’s Resource Center 24-hour Hotline – 346-4671 or toll-free 1-800-257-5765 is staffed with trained counselors who daily provide a wide variety of advice and information.  In Lackawanna County, one call to this hot line can provide a network of information and resources.  Many times calls are simply informational, victims or family members looking for a place to turn.  Often calls are more urgent; when a woman has walked out with her children, with only the clothes on her back.

          As a victim begins to understand the abuse and its impact, she begins to gain self-respect and concern for her survival.  If she has some time on her side, the Women’s Resource Center counselors may suggest developing a plan that includes provisions for leaving quickly in a safe manner.  If things get out of hand for example, a basic element of the plan is knowing alternate safe routes out of the house.  Counselors also suggest escape tools like some money, transportation – either a car or friend with one, copies of important documents, phone numbers and the like.

          “It is important to understand that as each abuser is different, each victim reacts to the abuse differently, with various levels of risk,” stressed Ms. Shoener.  “Regardless of their circumstances victims need to understand they are not alone, that help can be begin with one phone call.”

           

          Written on behalf of Marian Community Hospital, a charter member of the NEPA Women’s Health Alliance, sponsor of Connections: Health and Education Services for Women.  

Although Carol McGlone is no longer employed by Marian Community Hospital, the information in this article is still current.

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