Across the United States, in Greece, Europe and all around the world, the effects of the financial crisis continue to spread – stock markets are erratic, foreclosures are still widespread, banks are being taken over, credit is frozen and bankruptcies are increasing. No one can predict with certainty the long-term effects on the economy, but most pundits agree that this collapse will not right itself in the near future.
How is all this affecting you and your loved ones? Are you all anxious and angry – on the verge of taking out your frustration over the financial news on each other? Although Domestic Violence Awareness Month is just over, this remains a good time for your family to look inward and reflect on your actions. Only by becoming aware of the potential for abuse can you honestly assess behavior.
While a number of factors have been recognized as causes of domestic violence – mental illness, substance abuse, certain innate personality traits, low self-esteem, poor impulse control and a history of being battered – social stressors have been identified as having a particularly strong impact on abusers. Poverty, lack of control and feelings of powerlessness can lead to the perpetrator’s perceived need to dominate family members. And this is linked to increased levels of mistreatment. During the current plummet of world markets, those who abuse are more likely to express their feelings of frustration in more belligerent ways.
Many people who are normally calm are stressed by the financial meltdown and concerned that they are spiraling out of control. If this sounds familiar, you could be at risk emotionally and physically. If you are worried about a hostile attitude and aggressive behavior, begin by following these suggestions:
1. Insist your partner participate in individual therapy as well as relationship counseling. The therapy should focus on anger management, cognitive behavioral change, insight, skill building, communication, stress reduction and control strategies.
2. Get help from friends and family. Talk about your concerns, educating them about domestic violence. Let them know what you need from them and how to recognize if you are in immediate danger. Devise code words to alert them if you need help.
3. Prepare to take care of yourself – emotionally, financially and physically. Find a therapist who will help you develop self-confidence and the life skills you may need to go solo. Take charge of your personal finances, open your own bank account, find a job if you are not already employed.
4. Have an exit strategy and plan what to do if and when you leave the relationship. Investigate the national domestic violence hotline, available community resources and learn about shelters in your area. Have copies of documents you may need as well as extra clothes and cash; leave them with a friend or neighbor so you can retrieve them later.
5. Immediately let someone in authority know about the abuse, if it occurs. Have the phone number of the local police station available – and you can always call 911. If the violence is directed to your children or the elderly, know how to contact the agencies dealing with child welfare and elder abuse.
As we move through these difficult financial times, the stresses we face are great. Emotions are likely to be close to the surface as uncertainty about the state of our economy continues. Be aware of any potential for domestic abuse in your family and learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from the painful trauma caused by violence.