WEST ENGLEWOOD— More than a third of women in West Englewood and Humboldt Park have been victims of domestic violence, the highest level in the city, a survey found.
By Matt Lindner
The ubiquity and popularity of social media have made it easier for people to keep track of one another.
“Now everybody knows everybody’s family and friends,” says Barbara Helm, a safe adult advocate with domestic violence shelter and victim services provider Family Shelter Service. “Social media has become such a huge part of everybody’s life, and we have to let everybody know what we’re doing every minute of the day.”
This has presented professionals who work with victims of domestic violence with a host of opportunities and challenges.
Domestic Abuse isn’t just physical and batterers use various tactics to control their victims. Regardless of what form domestic abuse takes, it has damaging effects on the victims. The four main types of domestic abuse include physical, sexual, emotional and financial. Using these various forms at various times the abuser manipulates and controls the victim leaving the victim helpless.
Physical Abuse: Physical Abuse by definition is an act of another party involving contact intended to cause feelings of physical pain, injury or other physical suffering or bodily harm. In the case of domestic violence, it can include hitting, shoving, grabbing, shaking, burning, pulling hair, arm twisting or even assaulting the victim with a weapon. The abuser may throw objects at the victim. Physical abuse isn’t only limited to the intimate partner in cases of domestic violence. The abuser may inflict injury upon children, pets, and even family or friends of the victim.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse by definition is causing another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat. In the case of domestic violence, sexual abuse can include expecting the abuser to have sex after an abusive incident, criticizing the victim’s appearance and sexual performance, withholding sex as punishment and minimizing the partner’s needs. It can also include forcing sexual actions on the partner without consent, crossing the partner’s sexual boundaries, treating the partner as a sexual object, preventing the partner’s use of contraceptives or forcing abortion.
Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse by definition is any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity and self-worth. In the case of domestic violence, emotional abuse can include insulting the victim constantly by calling them names, yelling at them, criticizing them, mocking them, humiliating them, blaming them for everything and continually threatening them.
Financial Abuse: Financial abuse by definition is when the abuser tells the victim what the victim can and cannot buy or requiring the victim to share control of her bank accounts. This may be the case in domestic violence situations, however there is more that takes place. The victim becomes very financially dependent on her abuser. The abuser tends to stop her from working or getting an education or jeopardizes the partner’s employment through manipulative tactics. The abuser may also take away credit cards, money or checkbooks, giving them very limited allowance. The abuser may also the victim accountable for every penny spent.
Too often when people think of domestic abuse, an image of the abuser battering the victims comes in their heads. However, domestic abuse is much more complicated and it entails other types of abuse which leave the victims feeling helpless and alone. Using knowledge, and understanding just how complicated domestic violence can be, is the very first step to helping those in need.
Too often when it comes to Domestic Violence victims, we very quickly ask “Why don’t you leave?” or “How can you let him treat you like that?” The answer to that question isn’t so simple! Rather, whether you mean it or not, it almost implies that you’re blaming the victim for all that they’re going through.
For most people it’s hard to wrap their head around why a woman continues to live in such a situation. Unfortunately, there are many financial and emotional forces that may keep the woman tied to her abuser. Leaving becomes a much more complicated process rather than a simple walk out the door, as most of us imagine. Here are some of the more common reasons as to why a woman may feel compelled to stay with her abuser:
FEAR OF MORE VIOLENCE ~ She fears a greater physical danger of herself and her children if they try to leave. She may be stalked, hunted down and suffer a worse beating or possibly death. Did you know that leaving is the riskiest time for a victim because she may actually end up getting murdered? Better to stay put than die may be thinking behind staying.
ECONOMIC DEPENDENCE ~ She cannot financially support herself and her children. She may be lacking job skills and might not be able to get a job.
ACCEPTABLE VIOLENCE ~ The violence escalates slowly and over time for the victim. Because living with constant violence may numb the victim, she is unable to recognize that she is involved in a pattern of abuse.
SOCIALLY ISOLATED ~ Often times an abuser tends to violate the victim from her friends and family. Due to which she may feel that she has no one to turn to or no other alternative. This way she may even be uninformed about possible alternatives such as shelters.
TRAPPED IN THE HONEYMOON PHASE~ There are periods of calm between the violence which are filled with love and affection which is known as the honeymoon stage in the cycle of violence. Often time the abuser can be quite lovable and loving while not being abusive such as showering her with gifts and much affection and attention. The woman may often cling to those memories and stay for these good moments.
CHILDREN: She does not want to cause them more emotional damage or leave them fatherless. Often times an abuser tends to threaten the victim about taking the kids away, due to which the victim may fear loss of custody of her children.
The situations and factors vary for victims and it’s often much more complicated than it may seem to an outsider. Before we judge or make implications, it’s always best to be kind, sensitive and understanding of victims and their situation.
WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) was founded in 1985, when a group of community leaders learned that female-headed families were a rapidly increasing segment of the homeless population in northwest Chicago suburbs and the number one cause of their plight was domestic violence.
Domestic Violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness among women and children, yet it remains an elusive and underreported social problem. A landmark survey found that one in four women has been physically or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner at some point in her life. Estimates of the number of women in the United States who suffer domestic abuse each year range from .5 million to 1.5 million or higher. Domestic violence claims an American life every six hours. In Chicago’s northwest suburban 12-township service area, it is estimated that 100,000 women are affected by domestic violence.
For women who are escaping domestic violence and have few resources to support their children, surviving on their own in the Chicago suburbs can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Northwest Cook County’s rent, transportation and child-care costs remain among the highest in the metropolitan area. The lack of immediate shelter options as well as safe, affordable longer-term housing may force a domestic violence victim to stay with her abuser rather than living in her car or worse yet facing homelessness.
Unfortunately, women aren’t the only victims. The National Center for Children in Poverty estimated in 2002 that anywhere between 3.3 million and 10 million children are witnesses to domestic violence each year. Research demonstrated that exposure to violence can have serious negative effects on children’s development such as post-traumatic stress disorder, even if they only observed the abuse.
The mission of WINGS is to provide a continuum of integrated services in an effort to end domestic violence and homelessness, one family at a time. The agency now has 18 transitional homes, 8 permanent supportive housing units, and the Safe House emergency domestic violence shelter. For nearly three decades, WINGS has provided nearly 500,000 nights of shelter and services to thousands of women and dependent children who needed a fresh start.
Each woman enters WINGS with a difference set of needs. Program staff ensures that those needs are met and that she is provided with services, education, and job training needed to improve her quality of life, assure her safety, regain her dignity, and rebuild her feelings of self-worth.
WINGS comprehensive support services include life skills development, therapeutic counseling, financial counseling, children and family services, career services, volunteer mentoring, and graduate follow-up. Every time WINGS helps an abused and disadvantaged women, her children benefit from the advances she achieves. By doing so WINGS aims to rebuild lives one family at a time.