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Victims of abuse need safety, support when leaving

6/23/2014

This is the seventh in a series about domestic violence.

Q: What are the factors to consider in leaving abusers?

A: In Psychology Today, Susan Pease Gadoua, L.C.S.W., author and therapist, published an article elucidating the factors to consider when contemplating divorce. Common reasons frequently cited by female victims include faith-based values regarding divorce, fear of leaving the children with ex-spouses for parenting time, and inability to support themselves financially.

In 2008, Gadoua developed a set of factors she evaluated as workable, workable with intervention, and not workable. These factors provide guidelines for evaluating whether victims should stay or go. They are as follows:

* Mutual trust, lack of trust, reparable trust.

* Good communication, no communication, some communication.

* Fidelity, infidelity, willing to end affair(s).

* Mutual respect, no respect, foundation of respect.

In 2005, a research team from the University of Cincinnati's School of Social Work published results of a study of 32 domestic violence deaths in seven years in Hamilton County, Ohio. The study stated there were predictors of death or warning signs of danger in 96 percent of the cases. The study was done from 1997 to 2003.

Results were analyzed by Assistant Professor Gary Dick from the University of Cincinnati's School of Social Work and Ann MacDonald, executive director of the Rape Crisis and Abuse Center. The statistics revealed 91 percent of deaths were women, 16 percent had protection orders and 36 percent had children.

The research identified many risk factors considered predictors of death.

* Separated -- 83 percent.

* Substance abuse -- 68 percent.

* Escalating abuse -- 56 percent.

* Stalking behaviors -- 50 percent.

* Criminal history -- 46 percent.

* Threats to kill -- 43 percent.

* Prior domestic violence charges -- 36 percent.

* Child abuse -- 33 percent.

* Threats of suicide -- 33 percent.

* Perpetrator mental illness -- 31 percent.

* Strangulation -- 29 percent.

* Threats with weapons -- 25 percent.

* Property damage -- 23 percent.

* Violation of protection orders -- 23 percent.

* Previous serious injuries -- 23 percent.

* Sexual assaults -- 21 percent.

* Animal abuse -- 8 percent.

The most significant risk factor is separation or when the female actually leaves the perpetrator. In terms of dependency and needs, perpetrators are just as, or more, needy than victims. Thus, the victim leaving the relationship constitutes a monumental threat.

An interesting study of the predictors of recidivism in domestic violence cases was conducted by the Idaho Coordinated Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence committee. The author was Lisa G. Bostaph, Ph.D., who published the results in 2009. Data was gathered from a review of relevant research on domestic violence related to factors predictive of recidivism, defined as repeated episodes of domestic violence.

The following factors are listed in the order they were investigated in the research, not the order of frequency.

* Factor 1: History of domestic violence -- 55 percent.

* Factor 2: Threats to kill -- 33 percent.

* Factor 3: Threats of suicide -- 67 percent.

* Factor 4: Recent separations -- 100 percent.

* Factor 5: Obsessive/Controlling Behaviors -- 60 percent.

* Factor 6: Prior police contacts -- 33 percent.

* Factor 7: Alcohol/drug abuse by suspect -- 100 percent.

Repeated episodes have the same two highest factors. They are recent separation and substance abuse. These two danger signs or red flags for victims are significant in educating victims about safety. When leaving, for instance, victims need safe places, support persons, professional support services and money. All these safeguards need to be in place before victims leave.

Regarding the coexistence of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, authors Daniela Gloor and Hanna Meier from Social Insights research institute in Switzerland assessed the relationship between domestic violence and alcohol abuse. The Swiss survey, Violence in the Partnership and Alcohol, reported in nine out of 10 cases, the victims were female. Children live in two out of three homes with domestic violence.

The Swiss researchers examined 1,500 cases from counseling agencies. They found treatment centers are just beginning to treat the duality of domestic violence and alcohol abuse. The alcohol abuse in intimate relationships is gender-specific, overwhelmingly occurring in males over females. Close to half of female victims have partners with alcohol problems, whereas couples in which both partners drink excessively is 4.3 percent and couples in which women only abuse alcohol is 0.6 percent. The Swiss study included research from other countries, as well as Switzerland.

Another risk factor not generally included in lists of danger signs is the prevalence of domestic violence victims whose abusers interfere with their jobs. The Family Violence Prevention Fund published facts about domestic violence and women in the workplace.

Survivors of domestic violence reported 74 percent were harassed at work by their abusers. Of the more than 1 million women stalked each year, more than 25 percent reported missing work because of the stalking. In a national survey in 1997, 24 percent of female victims between 18 and 65 years of age stated the abuse caused them to be late for work or to miss work.

In addition to the relationship between female domestic violence victims and problems that interfere with their jobs, there is violence at work against women who are not victims of domestic violence. Each year, more than 29,000 rapes or sexual assaults are committed against women in the workplace. Between 1993 and 1999, each year there were 1.7 million incidents of violence against females 12 and older.

* Next week's article will discuss safety and survival skills for domestic violence victims.

Judy Caprez is associate professor of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions in care of the department of sociology and social work.