Healthy Relationships in a World of Trump vs. Hillary

Posted on October 5, 2016

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With news reports crammed with hate crimes, bullying, riots, and terrorism, why are we surprised that people hurt their family members? Even the 2016 presidential election is being called the most divisive in history. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What better way to fix the angst in our world than to start at home? This blog post will discuss ways to have a healthier relationship with your significant other, how to teach your children to have healthy relationships, and how to encourage your clients to have healthy relationships.

Everyone is going to encounter disagreements with others. If you cannot peacefully resolve disagreements with the people you love, how can you expect to peacefully resolve disagreements with those who may have a different religion, race, sexuality, or political view? South Carolina has consistently ranked among the worst states for the numbers of women killed by men. The Violence Policy Reports are released every Fall and rank the states according to the numbers of women killed by men, per capita. This year’s report, which was released on September 20th, lists South Carolina as #5 in the nation for the number of women killed by men. Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2014 Homicide Data. Sadly, this is quite an improvement.

2013 Report: 1st
2104 Report: 2nd
2015 Report: 1st
2016 Report: 5th

Why in our State, do so many people kill the people they love the most? Governor Haley developed a Domestic Violence Task force in 2015. The task force has utilized surveys, data, public hearings, and personal testimonies from Survivors to discover the answers and solutions to our shameful problem. Government officials, advocates, and law enforcement are implementing systematic changes. But real change must occur in homes as well.

The short answer to why men kill more women in South Carolina has to do with traditional gender roles, gun violence, alcohol abuse, and a history of keeping family matters private. But even in the states that have ranked far better than we have, there is vitriol among the citizens. Violence is bad for our children, our health, and our economy. How can we improve?

IN ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS

Each party in a romantic relationship needs to feel respected, heard, and free from fear. The fear and control wheel below identifies common tactics for control in romantic relationships. Identify areas in your relationship that need improvement. When I was an intern, I had an attorney tell me that he didn’t realize the ways he was acting controlling towards his wife until he learned about this wheel. I admired him for honesty. I have also included a wheel describing a healthy relationship: Intimate Partner Violence Control-Wheel

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Here’s a link to an article on Psychology Today with some tips that promote a healthy relationship: 10 Truths Keep Your Relationship Healthy. My favorite tips from this article include:

  • Be Responsible for Your Happiness, and
  • Honor Each Other in Some Way Every Day

Although our partners should be responsible for treating us with respect and not invoking fear, they are NOT responsible for our happiness. And nothing says, “I’m trying to work on our relationship” like making coffee for your husband when you are still mad about last night’s argument.

TEACHING CHILDREN

As part of the Domestic Violence Reform Law, passed in 2015, more children will be taught about healthy relationships in school. But they also need to learn from their parents what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Kids of all ages need to know what appropriate touches are and what to do when they feel like they were touched inappropriately or if someone talks to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. They need to be taught to set healthy boundaries. A teen in his first relationship will not know whether his girlfriend is calling 10 times a day because she loves him so much, or because she is too possessive. A girl in love may not realize that the derisive term her boyfriend calls her is not a joke. It is a sign of disrespect. Dating couples need to know that it is always okay to say, “No. Stop!” regardless of what they promised or how far they have gone in the past. There are resources available for teaching kids of different ages. Some of them include these videos for young children about avoiding predators Safety Lessons On Child Sexual Abuse, My Body Belongs to Me Animated Short Film, and this video about consent, Consent: It’s Simple As Tea.

The most enduring lessons will be the ones you model. The Child Domestic Violence Association estimates that children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are 6 times more likely to commit suicide, 50% more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and 74% more likely to commit a violent crime against someone else. I once had a client’s preteen ask to speak to me without his mother present. He asked me, “What should I do when my parents get back together and my Dad starts hurting my Mom again?” He was torn between his desire to protect his mom and his desire to escape. His dad often berated him for not being enough of a man. These conflicting messages will not make it easy for this young man to develop a healthy romantic relationship.

Another time, I was in Dollar General and overheard a conversation in the next aisle. A grandson starting hitting his grandmother when she would not buy him the toy he wanted. Instead of correcting him, she starting taunting him about how he hit like a girl and how his female cousin could hit harder than that. I have no idea what lesson she thought she was teaching him, but it sounded a lot like, “strong men hit the women they love harder”. Your children will receive a lot of messages from television, music, and peers about what relationships look like. If you don’t teach them, someone else will.

ENCOURAGING CLIENTS

Whether you are helping a client with a real estate closing, a will or a divorce, you can impact someone’s perception about Domestic Violence. And you will. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence cites that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience physical violence from a partner in their lifetimes and that, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. If you encounter the victim, let them know that help is available. Refer them to their local Victim Advocate. A list of the South Carolina agencies are available at this link: www.sccadvasa.org. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Victim Advocates may be able to help with finding housing, obtaining counseling, or filing for an Order of Protection. You can place signs about Domestic Violence resources in the restrooms. You can decrease the fear by not doubting, nor judging your client for what they have revealed. I recently heard a woman tell a man at the airport that she had been drugged and raped by someone she knew. The man turned away and a woman who heard turned to her with a disgusted, judgmental expression on her face. Don’t be those people.

If you are representing the alleged abuser in the relationship, even for criminal defense, you can help eradicate domestic violence. Your reactions will convey your values. Comments such as “I’m glad to hear you didn’t do what she is accusing you of, because that would be wrong.”, “You have got to stop violating that Order of Protection.”, or “I know you don’t want to do PTI. But hey, maybe you will learn something to make your future relationships better.” convey your values and intolerance for domestic violence. Male attorneys, especially, can help correct the acceptance of domestic violence in our culture. By calling someone out for a joke that is sexist, degrades women, or encourages violence; you can help solve the problem. Movements such as #Man Upstate and Men Can Stop Rape focus on other ways that men can help. Men are an ESSENTIAL part of fixing this problem. Please email me at LeslieFisk@sclegal.org if you want more to know more ways you can help.

In the contest for the highest position in our country, candidates are using inflammatory comments, demeaning the opposite sex, and hurling personal insults. Let’s do better. And let’s start at home.

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