FIGHTING STIGMA AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING TIMES OF A PANDEMIC

By: Victor DeSousa

The latest reported data reveals that approximately every 7 minutes somebody becomes a victim of Domestic Violence in New Jersey. It is however impossible to determine what the real figure is since a lot of cases still go unreported due to the Stigma imposed upon the survivors. Here is however what we know in the general sense. During such a delicate moment in our lives when we are caught wondering what to do during and after a pandemic that places our existence at risk, how we live and our ways of life, it becomes more important than ever not only to maintain but to enhance the importance of our humanity, our sobriety and sanity. In a period of quarantine, domestic violence places all these values in danger exacerbated by a forced coexistence with the aggressor in a confined space without a time limitation. To designate those in the receiving end of the abuse as survivors illustrates well the “at risk” condition in which they find themselves. The Stigma still attached to such an inhumane condition is as serious and invisible as the virus itself. We know from a 3000 feet perspective that the aggressor does not strike just once. The abuser does not just impose him/herself physically but she/he will also inflict emotional blackmail as well. We know there are many aspects behind a survivor’s permanency in such a scenario. Abusers use tactics to instill power and control over a survivor. Abusers participate in a cycle of violence that can include four phases; tension building, explosive incident, reconciliation and a calm phase. During the tension building phase abuse is often emotional or mental, a survivor might start to feel as though they are walking on eggshells and there is an overall feeling of tension in the relationship. The explosive incident includes an escalation in violence where the abuser attempts to increase control over the survivor through aggressive behavior, including through emotional, physical, sexual, or financial means. During the reconciliation phase abusers will attempt to make excuses or rationalize their violence, often blaming the survivor for causing an outburst. The last phase is a calm phase, often referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ phase, and here an abuser may buy gifts, spoil a survivor, and promise that a violent act will not happen again. As we know, abusers cycle through these phases in various degrees and may skip a phase of calm completely. An abuser’s use of the cycle of violence continues for the purpose of maintaining power and control over another person. We know that aggression increases gradually in most cases, yet initially the abuse is subtle and does not reveal itself as nefarious as it had originally appeared. In fact, the aggressor tends to mine all the survivors’ defenses by dismantling and disintegrating them until the latter falls into complete isolation. We know that in such cases the psychological consequences of a verbal aggression will result in a feeling of incremental dependence on the abuser. Breaking the Barriers, the initiative from the Hackettstown Stigma Free Task Force is trying through this monthly publication to provide free guidance and in some cases advice/recommendations from certified technicians in the field. These suggestions and opinions from our experts have the aim of reaching out not just to those who are presently survivors, but also those with knowledge of abuse happening among their family and friends. The Stigma attached to these cases, causes the survivor to assume the blame for the condition, in which they are forced to live as a mechanism of defense against the fear of the aggressor and the fear of humiliation, adopting a false sense of strength to block any appearance of 

weakness. The consequences can often lead to tragic ends due to an increased feeling of invisibility and unworthiness. With the limitations of the safeguards imposed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Virus and the adoption of virtual platforms, we are trying by all means available within our capacity to keep our mission alive and relevant. We hope that this article and those circulated in the future will tackle all the issues in our society where stigma prevents those targeted by aggression, those with issues of substance dependence, those with mental illnesses, those with suicidal ideation and survivors of domestic violence can freely seek and find the help they desperately need. 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS HOTLINES continue to be available for survivors of interpersonal violence whose safety is at risk and who need to alter their own safety plan with a professional. RESOURCES for anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide, which are not uncommon while living in such a stressful and uncertain environment. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 at DASACC’s shelter currently provides shelter to survivors, their children, and their pets. 1-800-799-7233 if you are unable to speak over the phone, LOVEIS to 22522 DASACC’s Crisis line continues to operate to link survivors to counselors or provide confidential shelter and can be reached at (908) 453-4181. 

 

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