October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Which means that the media will be featuring many stories to bring awareness of and support for this devastating and insidious problem.
You may read about the estranged husband murdering his wife, children neglected by their parents and the elderly exploited by their grown children. All are horrendous reports seen on local TV and newspapers. Obviously, domestic abuse is terrible, but it is more common than you think, and baby boomers are not exempt.
Domestic abuse is any coercive behavior that a spouse/child/caregiver uses to exploit, injure, mistreat or violate another person. The tactics an abuser uses include intimidation, threats, put downs and other verbal sabotage. It may also include physical or sexual violence and often involves financial secrecy, dependence and restrictions.
Abuse cuts across all socio-economic boundaries, all ages, both genders and all religions. It is based on the principals of power and control and is perpetrated most frequently against women, but is growing amongst men. Abuse is no longer a family matter. It has grown into a crime. The Social Service community will investigate any suspected abuse against a child, the elderly or the infirmed and prosecute the offender.
I ran a domestic abuse program for 6 years.
Unfortunately, the number of older victims continues to increase. Statistics shows that few younger victims seek help; even fewer older victims contact domestic abuse programs or report abuse to authorities. Fear appears to be a major factor, especially the threat of harm.
Anyone in an abusive relationship needs a lot of support. Baby Boomers, in particular, may have more difficulty coming forward, because the years of emotional abuse leave long lasting scars, and take away a woman’s confidence to make choices. Furthermore, boomers have so much invested in their marriage – a nice home, financial security, a full social life, which is hard to give up. However, at what expense?
Here are some of the questions I heard from many abused women. If I leave, where do I go? The idea of staying somewhere else or with someone else is scary. Am I financially secure? How can I tell the kids/relatives about the abuse, since I’ve kept it a secret all these years? I feel helpless, worthless, stupid, isolated and unloved; can I now be independent? If I stay, can I endure another 20 years of abuse from someone who feels entitled and who rarely takes responsibility for his inappropriate behavior?
What can you do if you find yourself in this situation? There are three steps you can take to start the process of change.
- Acknowledge that your power and ability to feel complete, whole and free-thinking have been taken from you. The self-doubt, insecurity and shame associated with the abuse have made you into a shell of who you used to be.
- Talk to someone. Don’t keep it a secret. Find a professional experienced in domestic abuse and a support group to learn the dynamics of abuse and how to break the cycle.
- Realize that you can regain your sense of self, your wisdom, and your motivation and become empowered to live life enthusiastically and without fear.
Your therapist/support group will guide you to do the following:
- Get support from family and friends.
- Work on a safety plan to assure your well-being in the marriage or after you leave.
- Encourage you to know your financial status. All women should have an updated will and be able to protect their resources before there is a crisis.
- Speak to a lawyer to get legal information regarding safeguarding your assets.
- Document all emotional abuse (in a journal), and report all physical abuse to authorities.
There is no shame in seeking help, nor is their guilt for allowing this kind of behavior to be a part of your life for so many years. Changing an abusive relationship or breaking away from the abuse are both not easy. However, when you are ready, there are numerous resources available and a healthy new start ahead.
Amy Sherman is a blogger with JenningsWire Online Magazine. You can read more posts by Amy here.
The post is presented by the National Publicist, Annie Jennings of the NYC based PR Firm, Annie Jennings PR. Annie Jennings PR specializes in marketing books for getting authors booked on radio talk show interviews, TV shows in major online and in high circulation magazines and newspapers. Annie also works with speaker and experts to build up powerful platforms of credibility and influence.