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Smaller number of men victims of domestic violence

Published on -7/7/2014, 8:44 AM

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This is the ninth in a series about domestic violence.

Q: What are additional personal safety skills for victims of domestic violence?

A: According to Irene van der Zande, founder and head of Kidpower, there are many ways to protect oneself in an abusive relationship. The beginning of personal safety is to assess the abuser's behavior and to recognize possible danger signs. Learning how to center themselves in order to think clearly is necessary for victims not to panic or escalate the violence. Van der Zande's education is geared to female victims.

Van der Zande promotes the skill of learning to insulate themselves emotionally so victims will not respond to triggers or coercion from verbal abuse. Victims also can be taught how to de-escalate conflicts verbally. Victims need to develop safety plans for how to get out and how to get help. This last safety strategy appears over and over again from countless experts.

Usually men who have used violent behavior to control past relationships most likely will continue to use violence. The unrealistic hopes of female victims that the abusers will change keeps women in dangerous relationships.

Van der Zande hosts personal safety classes for domestic violence victims. The skills taught help people avoid getting into abusive relationships, make the best of destructive situations, keep their self-worth and keep searching for ways out. The staff teaches the tactic of going to safe places for the time being and leaving the children someplace safe.

The classes recommend leaving without hostility and fights. Victims might have to lie to save themselves in violent situations. The use of distractions also is a good safety strategy. Victims can make arrangements for friends or family to call abusers and have them talk to abusers, not about abuse, but about interests or hobbies or other nonthreatening topics.

Sometimes agreeing with an abuser that everything is one's fault, apologizing and saying the best thing is to leave and come back later is a good plan. The classes also teach victims how to pull away from grabs, how to block or dodge hits and how to escape from choke holds without hurting others. This educational program on personal safety also teaches domestic violence survivors how to recognize the triggers in their relationships that set off violence and abuse.

One of the greatest problems with victims leaving is their inabilities to stay away. They return because of feeling sorry for abusive ex-partners, feeling guilty about the sadness of the children, being afraid about making it on their own, and being criticized by family for disgracing them by leaving. This program teaches victims positive self-talk and thinking instead of simply reacting. They also learn how to apply safety strategies in class role playing and simulations.

Male victims do exist, but in a small number compared to women. However, there is a need to address male victimization. In 2011, the Mayo Center published a series of articles in Adult Health online that included information for men to recognize whether or not their relationships were abusive and what to do if they were.

Signs for male victims are the same as those for females. They are as follows:

* Name-calling, insults, putdowns.

* Keeps men from going to work or school.

* Stops men from seeing family or friends.

* Tries to control how men spend money, where they go or what they wear.

* Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses men of unfaithfulness.

* Gets angry when drinking or using drugs.

* Threatens men with violence or weapons.

* Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts victims, the children or pets.

* Assaults men when sleeping, drinking or not paying attention.

* Blames men for their violent behavior or tells men they deserve the abuse.

* Forces men to have sex against their wills.

* Portrays violence as mutual and consensual.

The Mayo Clinic outlines a set of recommendations for men. First is creating a safety plan, the same as that for women. Men should consult domestic violence hotlines for advice. They also need to prepare emergency bags with important personal papers, money and necessary medications, leaving the bag somewhere safe.

In order to protect privacy and location, male victims should use phones carefully. Abusers can check cellphones or search through billing records to see men's cell calls and billing records. The abuser has access to phones on family plans. Men should consider using computers in neutral areas such as libraries, work or the homes of friends or families.

GPS needs to be removed from vehicles since abusers can find locations using GPS. On the computer, victims should change email passwords frequently. Men should choose passwords abusers would not guess. Clearing the viewing history would include records of websites or graphics.

An emergency call to 911 is appropriate for any life-threatening situation. Confiding in people men trust is recommended. Included in leveling about abuse extends to health-care providers who treat the injuries for male victims. There also are support groups for people who are victims of abuse, both male and female, in larger cities. Small town and rural areas probably will not have services for male victims. However, many local mental health centers will have treatment available for male victims.

A final recommendation for male victims is to obtain protection from abuse orders that can be shown to police if abusers show up. Abusers violate PFA orders, but so do victims: male abusers, female abusers, male victims, female victims -- all violate PFA's. Sometimes these violations end in death for victims.

The advice given to male and female victims is similar. What is different is the number of crisis centers, safe houses and domestic violence programs available to each gender. Male victims, because their numbers are so much smaller, have many fewer domestic violence resources. They do have the same access to health care professionals, emergency responders and mental health centers.

* Next week's discussion will cover helping children cope with domestic violence.

Judy Caprez is associate professor of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions in care of the department of sociology and social work.

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