Efforts to Break the Cycle
Salas and other members of the public force have been trying to educate the community about domestic violence through a radio program Friday mornings at 9 a.m. on Radio Cultural 88.3 and discussions in schools. They're focusing on working with children in hopes of a better future because it's difficult to change adults. Focusing on children is important because kids who grow up in an environment of violence statistically tend to become victims or aggressors.
Domestic violence links to other crimes as kids look to drugs and get involved in assaults and robberies, for example.
The police hope to make people more sensitive to domestic violence and encourage reporting incidents to the public force or 911. Victims should be reassured that they are important and that they don't have to live this way. But they should be encouraged in a way that doesn't re-victimize them, never telling them "don't be foolish" or "you are to blame." Salas explained that many victims feel guilty for not doing things the way their partner demands.
Mileidy Granados, a female police officer in Samara, believes that women should be educated about what constitutes domestic violence, as many women don't realize that things like insults, bad words and yelling are aspects of domestic violence, not just physical aggression. Saying things like "you're worthless" and "you won't find another" are verbal abuses that are punishable by law. "That happened to me," she admitted. "Until the police entered, I didn't realize that it was domestic violence."
When a woman is determined to get out of the cycle of abuse, protective measures can be taken. When a victim of domestic violence denounces an aggressor before the family court, protective measures go into effect for 6 months, during which period if the aggressor again shows lack of respect, mistreats the victim or even humiliates the person verbally, the aggressor can be imprisoned. Although many victims choose to continue living together, the aggressor can be evicted and ordered not to go near the house.
Sometimes, Granados explained, a woman decides to denounce the man to scare him, but that doesn't always work. "Some of them get their act together; others get worse," she observed.
The Sad Effects of Violence in the Family
Matarrita has benefited from professional help. She's talked with social workers and a psychologist, and as a result her view of herself has slowly improved. Before, she struggled with low self-esteem and lived with a complex because she believed him when he told her that she was ugly and good for nothing. "I have learned to like myself," she affirmed.
She has also noted changes in her husband. "He recognizes that he needs psychological help. It's just that it's really hard to get an appointment with a psychologist." He also recognizes that alcohol is a problem and even went to a couple of Alcholics Anonymous meetings.
Noticeably, their two children have been affected by the environment at home. Matarrita noticed that they listen to the way her husband talks and imitate him. One of her children suffers from nervousness and has problems interacting with other kids at school.
As a result of the last denunciation against her husband, the stricter law might force a change at this point. She was recently informed that her husband may have to go to prison for up to three years and is waiting anxiously to find out if this will happen or if an alternative might be possible.
Domestic violence happens all too often. Maybe people turn a blind eye. Maybe not. Maybe someone calls for help. And maybe, just maybe, with a lot of education, support and patience, the cycle of violence can be broken.
Family Violence doesn't happen continuously but has three basic phases.
1) In the first phase, the aggressor is accumulating tension and anger, so incidents might not occur or might be very minor.
What not to do: The victim shouldn't do everything asked of her or try to get along, be condescending.
Don't justify behavior: "he's so tense, poor guy works so much," "it was an accident, the glass slipped," "I didn't do the task well," "I'm very fat, I'm unattractive," "I'm no good at cooking," "he's changing, now he gets angry less"…
The symptoms of an assaulted person in this phase are: fear, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite and fatigue.
2) In the second phase, the aggression actually occurs. The aggressor finally loses control. During this phase, people feel trapped, avoid provoking the aggressor more and hope that the punishment passes, they "block out" in order to not feel.
After the incident they become indifferent, with depression, isolation, denial and they lose all hope of getting out of the situation. It's at this moment when the person tends to look for help or leave the house.
3) The third phase that completes the circle is a period of calm, when the aggressor repents and behaves affectionately. He promises to change and that everything is going to be different. Since the victim ends up believing him, any measure taken in the previous phase to detain the violence will be abandoned. Why do they believe him? There's great confusion when they have changes from violence to affection in such little time, they're afraid of future retaliation, they have real hope that the person is going to change, the aggressor convinces other people who end up interceding to not break up the family, they feel responsible because the aggressor needs him/her or threatens to commit suicide.