The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Faces of Domestic Violence

October 6, 2012

Leaving an abusive relationship is harder than it may seem, but help is available

ANDERSON, Ind. — Sandi Martin-Frizzell stood at the top of the porch steps, suitcase in hand. She turned around and looked at the house she would leave forever.

She wanted — and needed — to leave the abuse she had endured for decades. Yet, walking down those stairs were the toughest steps that Martin-Frizzell ever took.

“Going into a sea of unknown is so hard,” she said. “People who knew about the abuse would always say, ‘I don’t get it. Why do you stay? Why do you put up with it?’ That was 28 years of my life.”

Her story isn’t unique. The phenomenon of abuse victims wrestling with the idea of leaving their batterer is seen in nearly every domestic violence situation.

There were several reasons Martin-Frizzell stayed in her marriage for 28 years, leaving her husband several times, only to return over and over again. One of the biggest reasons was fear. Her now ex-husband told her that he’d kill her children, parents and sisters if she left him.

Why they stay

It is clear that women are not always the victims and that men aren’t solely the abusers. Still, that scenario is the most common in violent relationships. Certain perceptions, too, are common in domestic violence cases.

Peggy Stockdale, chair of the psychology department at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis, said it is typical for victims to receive blame from friends and family who don’t understand why they don’t simply leave.

“Blaming the victim doesn’t get us anywhere,” she said. “There are complex reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship but it doesn’t mean they deserve the abuse they are getting.”

A major factor is the way a person was raised. Anyone growing up in an abusive family is more likely to be an abuser or victim. People also remain in a violent relationship due to strong feelings for the abuser and dependency on that person economically, socially and psychologically.

Fear, as in Martin-Frizzell’s story, is a major component for many women who stay, Stockdale said.

Kandi Floyd, victim’s advocate at Alternatives, Inc., works with dozens of victims every day. Their fears are real, she said.

Being a friend

Although a female victim may constantly be looking over her shoulder for the abuser, she may sense that she cannot take care of herself and her children. Again it is the anxiety of the unknown, It is also common for the abuser to isolate the victim, keeping her from maintaining a job and by limiting access to money and resources. Those actions are intended to curtail the victim’s independence, she said.

“For some of them, it is a lot easier to stay and take the abuse than leave and not know what to expect,” Floyd said.

And in many cases the victim still loves the abuser.

“You can’t turn that emotion off,” she said. “At one time that person was good; they think they can get back to that point.”

An abuse victim also may stay because the abuser has made her think she deserves the abuse and aren’t worthy of something better. On average, a woman will leave seven times before getting out of an abusive relationship. The general public has no idea how hard it is for an abuse victim to break the cycle of violence, she said.

“Don’t blame them, don’t tell them they are stupid for going back, because they are hearing those same things from the abuser,” Floyd said. “You are just reinforcing it for the abuser and she’ll never leave. Instead, continue to be a friend.”

Why and how they abuse

Just as misunderstood is the dynamic of what constitutes an abuser. So many people, including abusers and victims themselves, only think of the physical aspect of domestic violence.

“When I looked at domestic violence, I thought about it being what we see in pictures — bruises and black eyes,” said Vaughn Walker, director and supervisor for the Batterers Intervention Program at S.O.S Counseling in Anderson. “But what domestic violence is really about is power and control.”

Walker is one of two people in Madison County certified by the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. He provides court-ordered treatment for those convicted in domestic violence related cases. Licensed clinical social worker Don Allbaugh is the other.

“Actual physical violence is the tip of the iceberg,” Allbaugh said. “It is really all about power and control.”

While both Allbaugh and Walker point to several factors that contribute to someone becoming an abuser, both stressed that these traits should not be viewed as excuses for the behavior.

“A large percentage of batterers come from an abusive background where they were victims themselves or witnessed the abuse, were sexually abused or severely neglected,” Allbaugh said. “But there is also a high percentage of people who have that same upbringing who don’t abuse.”

Changing relationships

Some use abuse as a mood stabilizer. Lashing out against a victim in a physical way gives the abuser immediate relief, just as a despondent person might use an anti-depressant. In Allbaugh’s experience, batterers tend to be insecure; they don’t believe anyone could love them unless forced to do so. In turn, they use power and control to keep their partner.

Some men seek justification for abusive actions, and often receive it from other males in the community.

“Men who are not batterers, who abhor that behavior won’t speak out when they hear ideas being expressed about abuse or women being demeaned,” Allbaugh said. “That needs to change. Batterers are desperate guys looking for validation wherever they can get it. Don’t give it to them.”

Social and cultural factors contribute to domestic violence as well, Allbaugh said.

“There’s a lot of ideas in society, especially religion, that teach that men should be dominant over women,” he said. “There’s still a lot of sex role rigidity that sill exists and I think that contributes to the problem, is part of it.”

Walker said men thinking they have a legitimate right to control women begins early on.

“Men are raised in a cultural box that tells us if you are pushed against a wall that violence is the answer,” he said. “We are taught that power and control is OK. It is not OK and that’s the message we need to get to men and children we are raising.”

Walker said many clients in the 29-week program don’t know how else to deal with partners without using power and control. His job is to “retrain” the men in approaching and handling  relationships. The S.O.S. program is new, but Walker said he’s seen it make a difference. There have been eight who have completed it so far and there’s another 20 in the three groups he’s working with now.

“I teach them how to have a better relationship,” he said. “We are trying to protect future partners as well as those from the past. It is my job to try to break the cycle with the perpetrators.”

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.

Text Only
Faces of Domestic Violence
  • 1028 news Domestic Violence illustration06 - Copy.JPG Who can stop domestic violence? You

    The elimination of abuse in relationships — with time, cooperation and commitment — is possible, said Colleen Yeakle, coordinator of the Indiana Coalition of Domestic Violence’s (ICADV) prevention initiative.

    October 27, 2012 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • Legislation comes a long way, but more change needed

    Each year the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence sets its legislative priorities based on year-round discussions with its members and legislators to see what needs are out there and what is going on in the field.

    October 27, 2012

  • 1028 news Empty Table Settings 18a.jpg Children affected by abuse too

    While some may think the atmosphere at Alternatives, the Anderson domestic violence shelter, would be a somber one, instead it is a building filled with laughter and joy.

    October 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • Gissendanner, Kristy.jpg Kristy Gissendanner: 'Vivacious and sweet'

    Six-day-old Gabrielle Gissendanner and her 18-month-old brother Michael weren’t far from their mom when Harry Gissendanner shot and killed Kristy in their Anderson home in 2004.

    October 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • John Davis: ‘Defined by your actions and inactions’

    John Davis wants his pain to make a difference. He’s hopeful sharing what he experienced and witnessed growing up will empower someone else to leave a dangerous situation or avoid it altogether.

    October 27, 2012

  • ‘It was life-altering’

    Casey Huffman should have taken her son Camdon to his first day of kindergarten this year. She should be picking out a Halloween costume for him. She should be thinking about how to help him achieve his hopes and dreams. Instead, Casey mourns over his all-too-early death.

    October 27, 2012

  • Tomlinson, Tina.tif Tina Tomlinson: 'She was a hoot'

    Tina Tomlinson was just “plain fun,” her family recalled. The mother of two and dedicated grandmother was someone family could look to for a good time.

    October 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 1024 news Domestic violence forum 108a.jpg Domestic violence prevention is possible, expert says

    Gender stereotypes are just one thing that Todd Cawthorn and five other speakers, during a 90-minute panel discussion Tuesday night, talked about that create an environment where domestic violence is accepted.

    October 23, 2012 3 Photos

  • 1023 news Dating violence talk 33a.jpg Teens can be victims of domestic violence, too

    Dating violence has been seen locally in relationships as young as sixth grade, Alternatives Inc. prevention specialist Todd Cawthorn said.

    October 22, 2012 2 Photos

  • 1021 news pendleton town court 020.jpg Justice for victims

    While a protective order is an important piece of the legal puzzle that domestic violence victims have to solve, Judge Stephen Clase stresses to each that it is, after all, “just a piece of paper.” “They won’t stop a knife or a bullet,” he said. “I tell them they need to be on guard at all times.”

    October 20, 2012 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Online Extras
  • Where to find help

    Alternatives Inc., 24-hour crisis line
    (765) 643-0200 or (866) 593-9999
    Kandi Floyd, Christy Clark, Dara Tracy -- victim’s advocates
    Victims Assistance Program, Madison County Sheriff’s Department
    (765) 646-4078 or (765) 646-4079
    Gay Doss, Jaime Wilhoite -- victim assistance providers
    Victim Assistance Program, Madison County Prosecutor‘s Office
    (765) 641-9673
    Melinda Padgett, Karla Montgomery, Alison Lutz, Gracie Roman, Laura Evans -- victim assistance providers
    Victim Assistance Unit, Anderson Police Department
    (765) 648-6773, Lessa Johnson, Christy Jones -- victim assistance specialists
    Sowers of Seeds Counseling, Batters’ Intervention Program
    (765) 649-3452
    Vaughn Walker -- supervisor

    Anonymous The Herald Bulletin Fri, October 12
    677 days
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Seth Meyers Rolls Out Emmy Red Carpet Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Front page