Queens Courier Features Safe Horizon in Month-Long Series on Domestic Violence

Posted on: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Keywords: domestic violence, domestic abuse, myths about domestic violence, Queens Courier, myths about domestic abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, domestic violence mental abuse

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As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Queens Courier interviewed Safe Horizon staff members for its month-long series on domestic violence. 

PART1: "Debunking the Myths with Truth"

Advocates address the common misconceptions that domestic violence victims make when seeking assistance.  Nancy Shea, who oversees our Queens Family Court Program helps debunk the myths surrounding domestic violence.

(QUEENS, NY, 10/13/2010) - Common misconceptions can represent a stumbling block when it comes to victims seeking the assistance they need. Here is a look at some of those myths.

Myth: Women are the only victims of domestic violence.

Truth: Although women make up the majority of victims, there are men who are also the victims of domestic violence and abuse. According to Cathy Moore, the chair of the Borough President’s Taskforce on Domestic Violence, 17 percent of the cases in Queens involve male victims.

Myth: It is a personal problem.

Truth: “It’s everybody’s business,” said Jean Perry, the Victim Service Coordinator at Queens Hospital Center. Perry said that people are encouraged to say something if they see something, and that she tells people to take information on domestic violence back to their communities and share it with others.

Myth: Domestic abuse is just physical.

Truth: Along with physical abuse, there are many other forms of domestic abuse. “We see physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse,” among other forms, said Safe Horizons social workers Nadine Bosson.

Myth: There has to be physical harm for victims to get help.

Truth: As long as a person identifies themselves as a victim of domestic violence, they are able to qualify for services.

Myth: A victim must be a citizen to get services.

Truth: Commissioner Yolanda Jimenez, of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, said that a person’s immigration status, as well as language, is not a barrier to getting services.

Myth: The victim will be arrested.

Truth: Although there are times both parties are arrested when the police are called, this is typically when there has been no previous altercation and the police need to determine what is doing on. The victim is not always arrested.

Myth: Victims will be deported.

Truth: Not all domestic violence cases lead to immigration being called. Nancy Shea, the program director of the Queens Family Court programs at Safe Horizon, said that part of their outreach involves getting the word out that family court is not going to report anyone to immigration.

Myth: Victims have to go through their situation alone.

Truth: There are many services in Queens that can provide assistance and help victims in many different ways.

Myth: You must be married to your partner to be considered a victim of domestic violence.

Truth: According to the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, “Individuals do not have to be in a married relationship to be a victim of domestic violence. The NYPD definition of domestic violence in New York City includes same sex couples, intimate partners who have lived together at some point, and registered domestic partners.”

by Jessica Lyons
"Debunking the Myths with Truth"
10/13/2010, Queens Courier
See original article here: http://www.queenscourier.com/articles/2010/10/13/news/top_stories/doc4cb5db9976f66030585235.txt

"Physical Abuse is Mental, Too"

This Queens Courier article explores the issue of power and control and how it can lead a person to stay in an abusive relationship. Sheryl Leah Zoldan, Director at our Queens Criminal and Supreme Court Program speaks about the mental effects that physical abuse can have on domestic violence victims.

(QUEENS, NY 10/13/2010) - The psychological impact that domestic violence has on its victims can have long-term and short-term effects, and can play a role in a victim’s decision to seek assistance.

“All the different types of abuse . . . go back to power and control,” said Sheryl Leah Zoldan, the director of Queens Criminal and Supreme Court Programs for Safe Horizon. “It’s always about power and control.”

Dr. Sandra Kaplan, the Director of the Division of Trauma Psychiatry at North Shore University Hospital-Zucker Hillside Hospital, said that difference in dependence can lead to abuse.

“It’s often if there’s a power disparity between the two partners, with one being less independent than the other,” Kaplan said. “There’s a situation that arises where there’s a great deal of dominance of one of the partners over the other.”

Isolation and restrictions on socialization are often associated with domestic violence, Kaplan said.

“It decreases their [the victim’s] self-confidence,” Kaplan said. “It often leads to depression, a sense of feeling hopeless and helpless and worthless.”

These factors, Kaplan said, can lead to a person staying in a relationship. She also noted that the victim tends to “love the person who’s the domineering partner.”

Safe Horizon social worker Nadine Bosson said the short-term and long-term effects of abuse can vary for each individual victim. In the short-term, she said the person may have low self-esteem, fear, self-blame, shame and embarrassment.

Long-term effects that Bosson said may be present include low self-esteem, difficulty finding healthy relationships, repeating the cycle by getting involved with another person similar to the abuser or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Bosson also said that, while some victims are immobilized by the abuse, others will instead feel mobilized by it.

“The mobility is really our chance to reach out to her and be here for victims that reach out for help,” Bosson said.

Kaplan said it can also be difficult for a person to leave the relationship if they can’t work, don’t have housing, are financially dependent or don’t have the resources to be independent.

Bosson said that there can be fear in seeking help and that victims might feel embarrassment or shame about it. Feeling that no one will believe them or understand them can also prevent victims from getting help, Bosson said.

The turning point when a victim decides to get assistance also depends on the individual, Bosson said. She said that at times it can be when the abuse escalates to a physical event, when they get to a point where they feel they can no longer tolerate the abuse or when they are no longer able to justify the abuser’s actions. Also seeing a physical mark and having visual recognition of the abuse can impact a victim’s decision to get help.

When a victim finally does leave the relationship, Kaplan said that it is often when the children are hit. She noted that in 50 percent of cases there is a co-occurrence between domestic violence and child abuse.

Bosson also said that seeing children involved in the violence or having them witness it can be a deciding factor. Zoldan said that she has heard many victims say that it was one thing when they were being abused but seeing their child hurt was a turning point.

Victims might also leave when they feel they have options, Kaplan said. This includes having social and financial support. Bosson said that recognizing there is help out that can influence some victims to make a change.

Being encouraged by the community, friends and family can also make a difference, Bosson said.

Once a victim has sought out help, Bosson said it is up to them if counseling is something that will they need.

“Women who receive counseling, help and have good support systems tend to have a better ability to heal, cope with the violence and make healthier choices moving forward,” Bosson said.

Kaplan said that it can be important for the victim and their children to have support and go through counseling since there might be a change in family structure that can be difficult to deal with.

Editor’s note: Dr. Sandra Kaplan was interviewed for this series on May 13. She passed away at the end of July.

by Jessica Lyons
"Physical Abuse is Mental, Too"
10/13/2010, Queens Courier
See original article: http://www.queenscourier.com/articles/2010/10/13/news/top_stories/doc4cb5ddfcc1575139013640.txt

"Abuse Is Not Just Physical"

Many believe that a person is not a victim of domestic violence if they haven’t been physically harmed.  Yet, abuse can manifest itself in many ways, including emotional and economic abuse.  In this article, the Queens Courier interviews a Safe Horizon Social Worker at the Queens Family Justice Center, as she highlights the different ways someone experiencing domestic violence can be victimized.

(QUEENS, NY 10/13/2010) - A person does not have to be physically harmed to be a victim of domestic violence. Abuse takes many shapes and forms.

“We define domestic violence as being a pattern of coercive behavior used by one partner in a relationship to exert and maintain power and control over the other partner,” said Jessica Spector, a staff attorney with Urban Justice’s Domestic Violence Project.

Nadine Bosson, a social worker with Safe Horizon, said, “We see physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse.” She added that other ways a victim may be abused are through threats, using children, male privilege, intimidation and isolation.

When it comes to physical abuse, Bosson explained that it can include hitting, kicking, throwing things, biting, slapping, strangling, grabbing or twisting a person’s arm. The abuse can control a victim, preventing them from leaving or seeking help.

“Often people can sustain bruises or injuries as a result of physical abuse,” Bosson said, adding that physical abuse can range from minor to moderate to severe violence.

Sexual abuse can involve a person being treated like a sex object, being sexually attacked, making a person do sexual things against their will either with the abuser or with another person and having the sexual parts of the victim’s body attacked. One result could be unwanted pregnancies. Bosson said this abuse can make a person feel powerless and that a lot of shame is involved.

Victims can also be abused emotionally. The abuser might make them feel bad about themselves, call the victim names or play mind games. They might try to minimize the abuse, deny that the abuse even happened and shift responsibility by blaming the victim.

“The victims will often think that they’re going crazy,” Bosson said. She said that if the victim’s self-esteem becomes low, they might start to internalize what the abuser is saying, which can lead to depression, anxiety and isolation.

There are many ways that a victim can be abused economically. It could mean forcing the victim to work or not work, not providing financial support, taking the person’s money, limiting how much money they are given, accounting for every cent spent, making the victim ask for money or having full control of the finances. Identity theft could also be a part of it, including applying for credit cards under the victim’s name.

“It can make the victim very dependant financially on the abuser and often makes it very difficult to leave the relationship,” Bosson said.

Threats are commonly used by an abuser to try to assert power and control over their victim. An abuser might threaten that they will commit suicide, call immigration or out a gay partner. Weapons might also be used to threaten more violence.

“That can make the victim feel like the violence is going to escalate and it can be enough, just a threat, to control a victim,” said Bosson.

Bosson explained that abusers can also use children against a victim, such as by using visitations as a way to harass the victim, falsely reporting child abuse or neglect, and undermining the victim’s authority over the children.

“Often victims are worried if they try to escape the relationship the other parent will try to take the children away from them or make false allegations through the courts against them,” she said.

Through “male privilege,” Bosson said there is a “master of the castle mentality,” where there are strict gender roles; the abuser is the only one allowed to make important decisions and the victim is treated like a servant. This can make a woman feel like she has no rights.

Intimidation can be another form of domestic abuse.

“Putting fear into a victim alone can be an extremely dynamic form of domestic violence,” Bosson said.

Actions, gestures, raising their voice or acting as if they are doing to do something can intimidate victims. Bosson said this can create fears of escalation and retaliation.

Abusers also may isolate their victims from family, friends and networks. They might control who the person talks to, where they go and want to know where they are at all times.

“There’s usually an escalation from emotional to verbal abuse to threats and intimidation to physical assault,” Bosson said. “Eventually intimidation and threats can be the only form that is needs to control someone.”

by Jessica Lyons
"Abuse Is Not Just Physical"
10/13/2010, Queens Courier
See original article: http://www.queenscourier.com/articles/2010/10/13/news/top_stories/doc4cb5d9a53851b492165692.txt

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