Domestic Violence Awareness Month
by Christina Hays
As October closes, we thank everyone who participated in celebrating Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).
The Dynamics of Domestic Violence: What everyone must know
by Rebecca Hieronymi
In 1989 Congress passed Public Law 101-112 designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and every year I am reminded about why I do the work that I do as an advocate. Several years ago, long before I became an advocate at Crisis Services, I was a victim of domestic violence. I didn’t know about resources for survivors and it seemed like no one wanted to talk about it, domestic violence was swept under the rug and only spoken about in secret. After I started at CSNA I had the opportunity to attend a conference where Retired Lieutenant Steve Searcy spoke openly about his time on the force and experience with domestic violence calls. His words resonated with me and inspired me to continue with my work as an advocate. Education is just one step in ending and preventing domestic violence, so I would like to share some of what he taught us and hope that it helps you or someone you know.
The first thing to know is that domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere. There is no standard profile of a victim or an offender, though many offenders do have some common traits (low self-esteem, abuse of drugs or alcohol, using violence to solve problems, etc.) Domestic violence is a crime and it’s done behind closed doors because the offender knows it is wrong. Up to 1500 women are killed by their partners annually and the CDC reports that ER visits for victims is more than for muggings, rapes, and traffic accidents combined. Domestic violence isn’t just physical, it is any method used to establish and maintain power and control over another person. It can be manipulation, emotional abuse, isolation, economic abuse, threats, sexual abuse, and physical abuse.
Manipulation is often the 1st red flag, followed by emotional abuse and isolation. The offender’s goal is to chisel away at the victim’s self-worth and limit their ability to get help. The offender may threaten to end the relationship, keep the kids away, harm or destroy valuables, harm the victim, loved ones, pets, or even themselves. Again, these are tactics used to maintain power and control.
Why and how does this happen? It is never the victim’s fault. We should not be asking the victim why they stayed, but rather why did the offender use fear tactics to hold the victim hostage in the relationship. The verbal and physical reign of terror can be slowly progressive; isolation is the main ingredient. The victim becomes hopeless and worried that they won’t be believed or that they will be blamed. The offender may take control of the finances, become socially obnoxious so other people refuse to associate with them (further isolating the victim), and most of all they blame it on the victim (“It’s all your fault”).
The cycle of violence can make it even more difficult to see the abuse clearly. The offender isn’t “always bad.” In fact, they may go weeks or months without incident and things seem back to normal. But tensions start building, the victim starts walking on eggshells, trying to anticipate the offender’s needs and keep them from getting triggered, then the abusive incident occurs (abuser becomes violent and irrational), followed by the “sorry I hit you” phase, and then the cycle repeats.
Most women leave 6-7 times before they are able to break their ties to the abuser. The most dangerous time for her is during and right after she leaves. So, what should you say if your friend or family member can’t leave today? “I am concerned for your safety. I’m here for you. Let’s make a safety plan.”
Please join us October 19th at 11 a.m. at the Jackson County Courthouse Gazebo for a Domestic Violence Awareness Event about hope and life after domestic violence. Remember, there are people who care, who believe, and can help. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Having a safe, non-judgmental place to unpack your feelings can make a difference in your healing. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline (256.716.1000) where you can speak with a trained crisis counselor or you may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, please visit our website at csna.org or Facebook page for information about events .
by Teresia Smith
Annually, we pause to acknowledge October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
By Teresia Smith
Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
by Teresia Smith
Anxiety, including panic attacks, is now the most common psychiatric condition in the U.S., affecting nearly one in five adults, and prevalence rates are increasing worldwide, according to Dr. Glenn Schiraldi.
For many, anxiety seems to have a life of its own. When it hits you, it seems excessive and unreasonable and you can’t pinpoint what is triggering it and you can’t will it to stop. However, there are some ways you can work to lessen the effects.
First, try to address the underlying cause. Often, past traumas wire our brain to be on “high alert” and our memories have connections to the survival areas in our brain of which we are not always conscious of. Those trauma memories fuel our anxiety and will continue to do so until we process them and find relief. If you are struggling with past traumas, talking with a trauma therapist is highly recommended. And as always, talk with your trusted physician to help manage anxiety.
Let’s look at some self-care skills that you can also practice that may bring some relief.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel. We often tend to fight our worries or run away and ignore them. Some fall into self-medicating with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to run away. However, this is temporary and avoiding fears and worries doesn’t work. It only increases stress and anxiety. It is more effective to allow yourself to examine your fears. Before you begin, make sure to be in a safe space and calm yourself with deep breathing. Be aware of the anxiety you feel in your body. Remind yourself that you deserve the same kindness and compassion you show others and work to relax your body.
Journal your feelings. Research shows that simply writing about your feelings and thoughts related to your fears for 15-30 minutes each day dramatically reduces symptoms and improves health and sleep. You can write about old hurts or you can write about present worries. If you being to feel overwhelmed, stop writing until you feel like trying again. When worries peak during the day, you can push them aside knowing you can address them and write about them later.
Take care of your health. People with anxiety tend to have an imbalance of microbes in the gut, which activates the brain’s fear center, increasing anxiety. You can optimize good gut health by following a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, seeds, beans and healthy fats, while limiting red meats and processed foods. Also, make sure to stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration can cause anxiety symptoms. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid caffeine and energy drinks as they can increase symptoms of anxiety, fatigue and they can disrupt your sleep. Sleep is also very important when combating anxiety. Quality sleep has been shown to help regulate anxiety. Most adults need 7-9 hours per night to best function. Going to bed and rising on a schedule can help your sleep cycle.
Get moving. Many studies over the years have shown that exercise improves anxiety, depression, and troubled sleep. Exercise has been shown to consume excess stress energy and produce molecules that help the brain make new calmer neural pathways. Exercise is especially helpful for trauma survivors. You don’t have to join a gym or even carve out hours to exercise. Short walks, hikes in nature or especially near water, and even yoga or tai chi can be calming.
So, while anxiety is very common, it doesn’t have to rule your life. There are small changes you can make that may have large benefits. If you are suffering from debilitating anxiety, your first step should be to consult your doctor to rule out any physical issues. From there you may be referred to a trauma therapist. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
If your anxiety is fueled by trauma from sexual assault or domestic violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services for survivors. You may reach out local office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.