Domestic violence more prevalent that most people think, counselor says

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St. Philip’s sponsored an event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

By Wally Perez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

 

One in three people have been or will be in an abusive relationship while taking too long to realize it, a licensed professional counselor with 15 years of experience said Tuesday at a domestic violence awareness event at St. Philip’s College.

The event was sponsored in the campus center by the St. Philip’s counseling services and disability services and Alamo Cares, a prevention, education and support program regarding dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The event marked the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

The counselor in private practice, Lucy Ziegler, asked the audience how many of them knew someone who had been involved in an abusive relationship. More than half of the 70 attendees raised their hands.

She said five to seven police reports are made before the victim makes a plan to leave.

The San Antonio police department had 44,695 calls related to domestic violence in 2013, which had decreased from the 45,008 in 2012, according to the department’s annual domestic violence report in 2013.

The report, however, acknowledges this is not an accurate representation of domestic crime in the city because there are more calls than crimes.

When the term domestic violence is mentioned, some may think of a man abusing a woman physically, she said.

“Most domestic violence reports involve women as the victim, but that’s not always the case,” Ziegler said. “Victims may be men, women, adults or children, and range from physical, psychological or verbal abuse.”

Ziegler described the signs of domestic abuse and ways to get out of an unhealthy relationship.

Victims may feel the need to walk on eggshells around their partner, constantly trying to say the right things in fear of backlash and may feel controlled by the abuser verbally or physically, she said.

“Restraining orders are a good option because it documents the abuse,” Ziegler said. “Victims also need to create a safe exit plan before breaking ties with their partner.”

Tips included letting a family member or friend know the situation, keep any evidence of physical abuse, know the abuser’s schedule, keep online information safe and plan a quick escape if necessary.

Many violent relationships follow a three-part cycle: a tension-building phase, the physical violence phase and the honeymoon phase, she said.

During the tension-building phase, tension may build over common domestic issues, and verbal abuse begins. The victim may try to control the situation by pleasing the abuser while the tension eventually reaches a boiling point and physical abuse begins, she said.

The physical violence stage is usually triggered by the emotional state of the abuserand may happen at random.

The abuser then expresses remorse for the actions during the honeymoon phase, going as far as to blame the partner in some cases. Kind and loving behavior is exhibited by the abuser, which may convince the victim to stay, while in reality the cycle will repeat itself, she said.

Most of the presentation involved Ziegler talking about women as the victims, but she assured that the audience it goes both ways.

More than one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a report by the National Domestic Violence Hotline in 2012.

Thermajean Jones, community empowerment coordinator at the college, praised Ziegler’s words and mentioned a TED Talks involving journalist Leslie Morgan Steiner about domestic violence called “Crazy Love,” which can be viewed at http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave?language=en.

“It made me realize what people go through, and how a bad relationship can escalate to a level of fear I didn’t know existed,” Jones said.

Melissa Sutherland, unit leader in the counseling service department, encouraged guests to seek help if needed or visit the counseling service department in Room 102 of Sutton Learning Center at St. Philip’s.

For more information visit www.alamo.edu/spc/counseling-services/ or call the counseling service department at St. Philip’s at 210-486-2333 or this college’s counseling office at 210-486-0334.

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