October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that touches on practically every aspect of an impacted individual’s life. Youth who experience abuse at home are at a higher risk for becoming homeless and have a greater risk for taking part in unsafe relationships themselves as they grow older. Violence in the home can normalize the presence of violence in other aspects of life or even insight violence within the abused individual themselves. Cycles of abuse happen on micro and macro levels: there’s a smaller cycle that happens in an individual's relationship, and a larger cycle that can occur across generations. The cycle of abuse can appear in many ways. Generally speaking, the cycle is often depicted as occurring in 4 stages: the honeymoon phase, the tension building phase, the explosive incident, and the calm phase. In the honeymoon phase, the involved individuals feel what may seem to be near perfection levels of happiness. Then tensions begin to build. The appearances of perfection begin to fade and one might feel like they are walking on eggshells. When tensions reach a tipping point, an explosive incident occurs. This incident could be a physical one, a verbal one, or a combination of various forms of violence. The calm stage following the incident often involves a sense of shock and guilt, which transitions into apologies, promises, and a repeat of the honeymoon phase thus starting the cycle over. Generationally the cycle can continue by normalizing this cycle of violence in the lives of young adults who will repeat it in their future relationships with romantic partners or family members.
Those outside of the cycle may be oblivious to what is happening to their loved one, and once they know, they may even wonder why the victim doesn’t simply leave the abusive situation. Familiarizing oneself with the cycle of abuse can help make identifying it easier, and can shed light on the struggles of those affected. WHile leaving may seem like the easiest option, it is rarely so simple. Oftentimes the abuser has some sort of power over the abused (financial, physical, etc) that prevents them from leaving; this coercion and control is especially concerning in cases with vulnerable demographics like youth. We must stress to our youth that their safety is top priority. Help them understand that anyone who attempts to compromise their safety is a threat and should be avoided. Make sure that the youth in your life have not just one, but multiple trusted adults with whom they can seek help. While we may not be able to collect every detail of each specific possible incident, we can still prepare ourselves to be advocates for those in need.
There are numerous local resources for those affected by domestic violence. St. Jude House in Crown Point is a shelter specifically for those seeking asylum from domestic violence. Along with providing shelter, St. Jude House also offers legal and financial advocacy - two crucial resources for breaking out of abusive cycles. Their website includes further information on the prevention of child abuse along with other useful information in preventing violence. The Crisis Center in Gary “include[s] the Alternative House emergency shelter for children and youth, Safe Place outreach to youth in crisis and Teen Court prevention and early intervention services for youth”. These services are available to youth ages 10-20 who need to seek shelter from abuse, homelessness, or other forms of violence. Here youth can take advantage of the counseling, transportation, skills training, and case management to help safely transition them into the next chapter of their life. For immediate assistance, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. The hotline’s website also provides tools for creating action plans, specific guides for understanding abuse across various cultural demographics, identification of early warning signs, and a live chat option for seeking help.
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.