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Domestic Violence

By Tara Clark, Director of Marketing and Communications
Featuring Psychotherapists George Saxton, L.C.S.W., C.C.B.T., and
Darcy McDaniel, L.C.S.W.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month…a time to mourn those who died as a result of domestic violence, a time to celebrate those who have survived, and a time to connect advocates who work to end violence. Sadly, in the Milwaukee area, October 2012 will be remembered as a time when an incident of domestic violence turned deadly at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. However, it’s not easy to find statistics specifically about domestic violence within the Jewish community. Since 1986, SHALVA, the oldest independent Jewish domestic abuse agency in the United States, has worked with over 4,000 clients from every denomination of Judaism. According to SHALVA’s website, “Domestic abuse does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity destroyer, regardless of education, socio-economic status or religious affiliation.” SHALVA, located in the Chicago Jewish community, states that 49% of their clients report physical abuse, 86% report emotional/psychological and verbal abuse, and 52% of their clients are still living with their partners while seeking therapeutic services.

Psychotherapist Darcy McDaniel, L.C.S.W., currently treats victims of domestic violence at Jewish Family Services in Milwaukee. Earlier in her career, she worked in a domestic violence shelter and homeless shelter as an Advocate/Case Manager in Columbus, IN. She suspects that the number of domestic violence cases overall in any middle or upper class segment of the population may be difficult to determine because the victims may not always flee to shelters...where an incident has a greater likelihood of being reported.

“We receive referrals from the Sojourner Family Peace Center. Or if they [victims] are in a shelter, like Cathedral Center, they may refer women to us. There are a number of places in town where a woman will go to escape domestic violence,” explained McDaniel. “But, a lot of women don’t go to a shelter. If they have the means, they are going to go to a friend or family member’s home or a hotel instead.”

Another reason Jewish women may not go to an emergency shelter is because the goal of a shelter is to provide a safe respite and very basic necessities like food, clothing and a warm place to sleep. Because of the large volume of women and children in shelters, it’s hard to accommodate a special request like kosher meals, for example.

“I’ve had a couple of clients who moved here when fleeing other states. One woman was a Jewish client who had trouble fitting in at the shelter in Milwaukee. The other women looked at her differently and made comments [about her] because she wouldn’t eat the meals. At most shelters, they have a common kitchen, so it’s pretty hard to maintain any level of kashrut in that situation. To help accommodate her, she was moved to a smaller area shelter where she was able to maintain more of her Jewish customs. For example, she could eat kosher meals and have Shabbat dinner with her children. In this shelter, she was able to hold on to the things that were more important to her in terms of her Judaism,” said McDaniel.

According to FaithTrust Institute, a national, multi-faith, multicultural training and education organization with global reach working to end sexual and domestic violence, Jewish tradition is very clear on the subject of abuse: it is forbidden for one person to harm another. You will find that same message throughout our society—whether you are Jewish or not. So, why do some men still believe it’s okay to hit a woman?

“Violence is learned. Violence is a behavior. Primarily domestic violence is about power and control,” explained George Saxton, L.C.S.W., C.C.B.T., and Psychotherapist at JFS. “Violence is not physically addictive like nicotine, but you can get an emotional charge out of anger and violent behavior. Men can get immediate gratification from it. It’s more of a perception that, ‘she has to do what I want or I’m not okay.’”

Prior to JFS, Saxton was Director of the Center for Prevention of Family Violence at Family Service of Waukesha. As a Certified Wisconsin Batterers Treatment Provider, he deals with the other side of domestic violence…with the abusers themselves. HOPE (Helping Offenders Process Emotions) is a program Saxton oversees that addresses individuals who don’t fit into existing typical domestic violence groups.

“For those with a mental illness, the mental illness is usually the chief reason for the violence. For example, a paranoid schizophrenic may believe that his wife is out to get him. The problem is that domestic violence, as I mentioned before, is primarily about power and control, and most [treatment] programs try to address that. But, for someone with a mental illness, it’s not always about power and control. It’s about lack of control over a situation. For people who have underlying mental health issues, it may require addressing the mental illness issues first, and it may require medication,” said Saxton.

What’s important for anyone involved in a domestic violence situation is that there is help available…whether you are the victim or the abuser. And, according to Saxton, the earlier you receive treatment, the better.

“Violence happens on a continuum…starting with verbal and emotional abuse all the way to killing. The earlier the intervention, the greater the chance that the cycle of violence will stop. The warning signs are often there when you look back. When your boyfriend or spouse starts cutting you off from family and friends, tells you what to wear and how to act…these are all warning signs. Also, relationships that are too good to be true. You meet him one day, the next day he is professing his love for you, and you are engaged in one week. These are also warning signs. Another one is if you don’t feel like you can be yourself around him. If you are constantly monitoring what you say or do because you fear the other person’s response,” said Saxton.

McDaniel agreed, “There’s a lot of manipulation keeping a woman in fear. One woman said her husband would go out and work on her grave every day. That was his power that he would use over her.”

If you are in an abusive relationship, it’s important for you to reach out for help…now. Our clinical staff at JFS, who specialize in treating domestic abuse, are available to assist you. Please call us at 414-390-5800. JFS is committed to maintaining the utmost levels of confidentiality.