Domestic Violence: Am I at Risk?
By: Mary C. Fairley
Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control another.
According to Marilyn Howell, clinical director and counselor with Domestic Family Abuse Shelters (DAFS), “many victims do not recognize they are in an abusive setting until they read about domestic violence in an article or see it described on a poster.”
In serving 11 counties in Mississippi — including Forrest, Lamar, and Jones counties in the Pine Belt — Howell knows how harmful domestic violence can be.
“Abusers are controlling and jealous,” she explained. “Emotional abusers intimidate, manipulate, put down, and threaten.” Abusers can sabotage independence, jobs and vocations. Often, Howell adds, an abuser may criticize the partner’s parenting and may “use” children to go against the partner.
Margaret Ann Morgan, communications director for the Office of the Mississippi Attorney General, shared with Parents & Kids some alarming statistics. According to Morgan, in fiscal year 2017, Mississippi law enforcement officers responded to 10,375 domestic violence calls. Of those, 4,687 arrests were made and 4,134 Domestic Abuse Protection Orders were issued.
Ashley Holford, LCSW, is a clinical therapist with Pine Grove Outpatient Services in Hattiesburg. She has 20 years of experience working in mental health.
Holford said dating and relationships are meant to be fun, which is why potential abusers can be identified in dating interactions.
Does your partner become emotionally or verbally abusive? Does your companion get into physical fights with others? Does he/she have a habit of alcohol or drug use?
Holford said it’s important to “pay attention when verbal arguments get more intense and harmful threats are made.” She said when property is destroyed as a result of conflict, it should be taken as a warning sign that “physical abuse may be next.”
Holford said initially when a relationship starts, it may seem innocent when the abuser wants to spend large amounts of time with the partner. It can be a “significant warning sign,” however, when a partner is isolated from “primary sources of support.” The abuser may become disrespectful of the partner’s privacy, checking his/her phone for text messages and social media.
The abuser, according to Holford, will criticize the partner, family and friends, and say that the abused “can’t do anything right.” There will be demeaning, insulting, and shaming remarks made.
“The bottom line is that an abuser wants to establish more power and control over his partner in the relationship, and will choose different methods to obtain this goal,” she added.
It is every person’s right to be safe and have healthy relationships. Don’t keep abuse a secret. Expect to be treated with respect. Everyone deserves to be loved and cared about without having to deal with abuse or violence.
Places to seek help:
If you are in immediate danger, call 911!
• Domestic Abuse Family Shelter (DAFS) — @DAFSofMS — 1(800)649-1092
• Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence — Mcadv.org — 1(800)898-3234
• National Domestic Violence Hotline — Thehotline.org — 1(800)799-7233
Mary C. Fairley is a freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a wife, mother and grandmother of five beloved grandchildren.