Weatherford Democrat

February 24, 2013

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Breaking away from the abuse

For some leaving a violent partner can be dangerous. But staying can be more dangerous.


Weatherford Democrat

— By CHRISTIN COYNE

Dealing with domestic violence in a relationship is a complex issue but there are resources available for those seeking help, according to Freedom House Executive Director of Catherine Tietjen.

Freedom House offers a range of services for domestic violence victims, including a shelter, crisis counseling, education and therapy, legal advocacy, and referrals. 

Last year, they provided 114 people with shelter and served 745 people with outreach services, including 317 sexual assault victims and 176 male domestic abuse victims.

“It isn’t just simple ‘he hits me so I leave him,’” Tietjen said. “It might be simple if I’ve just started dating.”

However, it’s usually more complicated, Tietjen said. Psychological abuse usually starts first, tearing down the other person’s self worth and making them start second guessing themselves.  

Somehow, abusers know how to find the individual weaknesses of people, she said.

There isn’t a simple answer for why people stay in abusive relationships, Tietjen said, adding that domestic violence doesn’t just take place in long-term committed relationships, but in dating and other relationships, as well. 

“A lot of people stay because it’s the safest thing to do,” Tietjen said, adding that many murders occur after someone’s left the relationship.

Sometimes the person actually loves the spouse who is violent or the person feels as if they are at fault for what is happening because that’s what the abuser is saying, according to Tietjen.

Freedom House asks those seeking help to talk about it and have a checklist.

Sometimes people think they are the only one with that problem, she said.

They work with the individual to create a safety plan unique to their situation, she said.

Freedom House never tells individuals what to do, allowing them to decide for themselves, Tietjen said.

However, if they need a safe place to stay, they can offer that. 

They also ask if they’ve ever reported the violence to police, she said. If someone wants to obtain a protective order, they need a police report to do that.

“Always trust your gut,” Tietjen said when it comes to children in the household. “If your gut is concerned the children will be hurt, the children will be hurt.”

There can definitely be a link between violence between spouses and child abuse, she said, adding that when controlling isn’t working with the spouse, the abuser can turn to the children.

Take any threats seriously, she advised.

Parents need to trust their own instincts, she said.

“I don’t want to make a person out to being a bad parent for staying in a relationship [where there is domestic violence between partners],” Tietjen said. “It may be safest thing to do at times.”

However, it’s never good for anyone to live in a situation where violence is present, she said.

Parents should also be aware that children always know what’s going on in the house, even if the adults try to keep it from them, Tietjen said. 

Children always love their parents whether they hurt them or not, something parents need to think about as they are moving children, she said.

Parents who have left domestic violence situations should be aware that, unless there is a strong enough reportable crime, the other parent will probably be able to spend time with the children, as well, Tietjen said.

“Relationships are hard,” Tietjen said.

Though Freedom House does not work with offenders, other resources in the community are available for those who are the aggressors in domestic violence situations or may be recognizing they are engaging in behavior that isn’t healthy.

There are numerous counselors in Weatherford that can help work with the individual on issues such as anger management and CPS can even be a resource for those wanting help, she said.

They recognize that dealing with domestic violence is painful and happens to one in four women in their lifetime, Tietjen said.

“A lot of women struggle with this issue,” she said. “You are not alone.”

More information on Freedom House can be found at www.freedomhousepc.org and the 24-hour hotline is 817-596-8922.