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Sister Mary Dostal

MARY DOSTAL

Historically, our nation is a nation founded on violence which continues today in myriad ways — one of which is domestic violence. Our country remains in need of a reliable understanding of just what domestic violence entails.

Domestic violence is intentional intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, psychological violence, economic abuse and/or other abusive behaviors creating a pattern of power and control over one’s partner. It may vary in patterns and frequency but it is always about a person maintaining power and control over the other. Abusers engage in domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, and blame. Domestic violence occurs in all economic classes, races, age groups, religions, sexual orientations and nationalities.

Domestic violence generally becomes more frequent and violent over time. Often the victim at first minimizes, dismisses, and excuses the abuser’s behavior. Physical abuse does not necessarily need to occur; psychological and emotional abuse are just as devastating, and often result in lifelong trauma. The aim of emotional abuse is to gradually erode feelings of self-worth and independence. Domestic violence can and does lead to death.

Domestic violence does not necessarily end when the abuser leaves the relationship; it may actually increase one’s chances of abuse. The abuser feels a loss of control and may stalk, threaten and harass the victim. The victim is often in the most danger upon leaving.

One-fifth of homicide victims who had a restraining order in place are murdered within two days of their abuser receiving the order. One-third are murdered within the first two months. Every nine seconds someone becomes a victim of domestic violence.

Some people are puzzled why victims stay in an abusive relationship. There are many reasons, a few of which are:

  • Fear that the abuser will become more violent
  • Financial reasons
  • Victim’s lack of knowledge or access to safety and support
  • Victim feels that the relationship is a mix of good times and love, along with the manipulation
  • Fears the abuser will harm their children, parents, friends, and/or pets

Abusers can control their behavior. They choose whom to abuse, when and where to abuse. They can stop the abuse if the police show up. They often direct their blows to where bruises won’t show. Alcohol and drugs are a factor in only 40 percent of the situations where police are called.

Survival classes

Because of the preponderance of domestic violence, Angela’s Piazza: Women’s Drop-In Center focuses on assisting women in their journey dealing with the abuse. We offer a 12-week education class covering these topics: What Is Abuse; Safety Plan; How Children Are Affected; Childhood Trauma and the Brain; Dispelling Myths; The Cycle of Abuse; How to Take Back Your Life; Has He Changed; Battering Personalities; Why Women Stay; What A Healthy Relationship Looks Like; Community Resources.

We also have a support group for women where others will understand their situation, they can share what works for them and what doesn’t. They see possible options. Having their feelings and ideas validated helps them grow and become empowered.

7 p.m. Tuesday vigil

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Angela’s Piazza hosts a candlelight vigil in honor and memory of victims. This year the vigil will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, at 420 Grand Ave. in Billings. There will be music and prayer, and will feature the personal story of a survivor. Everyone is welcome, and there will be a reception following the vigil.

As a community, we have a responsibility to assist women experiencing domestic violence. If you know a woman who is a co-worker, friend, or relative, you can encourage her to come to Angela’s Piazza.

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Sister Mary Dostal, OSU, is co-director for Angela’s Piazza: Women’s Drop-In Center, phone 406-255-0611.

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