The trauma of domestic violence: reality v. the classroom

dv1“I need to use a phone.”

I had just arrived home yesterday and was surprised to find my neighbor — I’ll call her Sarah (not her real name) — standing in my drive. Then I realized it was her car that was parked on the other side of the street. She must have been waiting for me.

“Has something happened?” I asked, but not really needing to, given the pallor of her face and the way she staggered as we walked towards my house.

“I’ve been beaten up and I just need to call the police.” That’s when I noticed the hand she held to her temple was hiding a very nasty lump. “I don’t want to stay,” she added quickly.

At work, I am known as the trauma geek – in fact, just yesterday afternoon I was teaching trauma-informed care to our current class of parent educators who are getting their certification in nonviolent parenting. One of the participants is a domestic violence survivor and gave a description of how trauma affected her ability to think and remember after escaping into a shelter.

“It was like there was rain in my ears for a week. You could speak to me and I would see your mouth moving, but I couldn’t understand what you were saying.” She was far more eloquent than my slides on the neurological effects of trauma. And now here was Sarah sitting on my sofa probably in the same state.

A glass of water! I remembered the grounding techniques to soothe the alarm center (amygdala) of the brain. I filled a glass and then sat down and stroked her hand.

“Would you be willing to tell me who has done this to you?”

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Models to curb domestic violence emerge from tragic murder in Massachusetts in 2002

nyorkerThe July 22 issue of the New Yorker contains a riveting account (“A Raised Hand: Can a new approach curb domestic homicide?” by Rachel Louise Snyder) of how the tragic 2002 murder of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter by her husband led to a fundamentally new approach to prevent domestic violence fatalities by advocates at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center where she sought help.

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The (inextricable) Link: Animal abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse

Link-circles2013

“Over the past 30 years, researchers and professionals in a variety of human services and animal welfare disciplines have established significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse and other forms of violence. Mistreating animals is no longer seen as an isolated incident that can be ignored: it is often an indicator or predictor crime and a “red flag” warning sign that other family members in the household may not be safe. We call this species-spanning interconnectedness of different forms of violence The Link.”

So states The National Link Coalition, which was created in 2008. “…Over 100 dedicated authorities, advocates and researchers representing a diverse array of animal protection, domestic violence, child maltreatment and elder abuse disciplines came together at a unique Town Meeting and National Summit in Portland, Maine.”  Their “goal was to build greater awareness of how these forms of family and community violence are interconnected…and to build successful programs whereby agencies in these fields can cross-report and cross-train each other for more effective prevention of violence.”

This relatively new field of research has uncovered some grim statistics. PAWS in Washington State outlines some striking

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