By Beth Lawrence
While no one yet knows the full details surrounding the death of Whittier resident Danielle Hicks last week, the initial detaining of her husband, Billy Hicks, was based upon a 48-hour domestic violence hold.
With that in mind, and given that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Center for Domestic Peace wants women to understand abuse and know they have options to protect themselves.
“It is any interpersonal violence among people who know each other, be that friends, acquaintances, dating relationships or family relationships,” said Wesley Myers, CDP executive director. “It’s any kind of physical, emotional, verbal, financial or sexual abuse by those parties.”
It can be one or a combination of the forms mentioned. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone at any socioeconomic or educational level.
Abusers don’t always show their true nature early in a relationship. Controlling or abusive behaviors often begin to exhibit themselves gradually. Abuse looks different from one relationship to another, but the common thread is abusers exhibit different behaviors to gain and maintain power and control over the other person in a relationship, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Paying close attention to the behaviors of a partner early on can give potential victims insight to the future. Examine how the partner reacts to stressful situations, manages their anger or if they feel threatened by their partner’s relationships with friends or family.
“A narcissistic personality, self-important personality, controlling behaviors, having to approve or deny all behaviors … less extreme can be looking over texts things like that, those are hallmarks that tick a list that we look at,” Myers said.
Those behaviors could signal a future problem.
A person in an abusive situation should understand there is a cycle of violence. There is a honeymoon period after a violent episode where the abuser is on good behavior, but the behavior returns, gradually escalating.
“It probably starts as verbal and gets a little more abusive then to the explosive part where major incidents happen,” he said. “Usually that incident is what drives (victims) to come out and talk to people. So watching for that cycle of violence, every time you get to that explosive period, that explosive period gets worse. It never really gets better.”
The cycle can only be broken by both parties seeking help.
Statistically, victims in an abusive relationship are most at risk when they attempt to leave because attempts to leave typically take place after an explosive episode where the most violent events occur, Myers said.
Friends and family can help victims by paying attention to warning signs such as frequent bruises or injuries, isolating oneself from friends and family, wearing excessive makeup or wearing scarves or long sleeves in hot weather.
It typically takes a victim several attempts to break free of an abuser.
“It’s not ever because they want to be in a violent relationship,” Myers said. “It’s all about that honeymoon period … abusers will make some pretty extreme promises. The abuser says, ‘That will never happen again.’ Maybe they do enter a program for treatment but they don’t finish it. The other part is that person may be an invaluable resource for them. If you have kids and you need childcare and that person is the only person able to provide you childcare, they may be forced, because of a lack of resources, to return to that violent and dangerous situation. (That) is why we exist. We try to take the place of that support system, temporarily so they’re not forced to (return).”
In 2018, REACH served 228 clients from Jackson County.
The Center for Domestic Peace began serving Jackson clients in July. To date, they have assisted 45 clients and children.
CDP helps victims and their families by providing assistance with emergency provisions such as food, infant supplies, job and life skills training and emergency shelter services. They also coordinate lodging for pets caught in such situations, another reason some victims are afraid to leave.
Myers recommends anyone planning to leave have control of their cell phone and their children’s and their important documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards and custody records if applicable.
For help or information, call CDP’s 24 hour hotline at 586-1237.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline also helps victims nationwide.
The hotline coordinates services at the local level for victims who reach out. For information, call 800-799-7233. For speech and hearing impaired, call the TTY line at 800-787-3224.