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Updated on June 30, 2011

Help & Information

For about a year I did a Social Work internship and volunteer work in a woman's shelter as a Child's Advocate. I implemented musical and artistic activities along with child care and counseling for children. Often the children would open up to me when telling me about a picture they were creating about what happened to their mother when dad got violent. In some cases the child was physically and emotionally abused by the father or other family member. Two thirds of child abusers are male, while one third of abusers are females. Ninety percent of spouse/partner abusers are male. Men are physically stronger and generally have larger incomes in many families. Women can be financially dependent and thus have less power in the relationship. For a long time it was legal to hit your wife as long as you only used your hand. This where the rule of thumb expression comes from. These laws started to change when women obtained the vote. Child labor and health and safety laws also were passed around this time.

Some people have learned it's okay to use violence to solve problems in the home because their parents abused them or used violence as a form of discipline. The macho "in charge" male stereotype is encouraged in these homes where a man thinks he has a right to treat his wife as a servant for his every need. Marriage should be a partnership where spouses discuss their differences and work out a solution together which includes the needs of each family member.

Examples of the controlling behavior you might see in these homes: beating a partner for burning the food on the stove, beating an individual for not sewing a button on clothing or not ironing a shirt. Some men beat their wives because they are angry at their boss and take it out on the wife. Some limit access to the phone or money to keep the spouse from leaving. Many of these are examples of a lack of communication with their partner. Beating becomes a substitute for talking and communication with the partner. Most of us have burned a meal or two, did not notice a button falling off the sleeve or forgot to iron a piece of clothing because the children's needs were more urgent. Sewing a button, cooking and ironing are skills that all family members can learn when it's age appropriate. Some people have disabilities and can not do these tasks, but most of us can learn them. We all can learn to communicate with our partners in a healthy, equal and constructive way. Talking to our family member is the way to go. Violence is never acceptable.

Minnesota was one of the first states which started women's shelters and family violence counseling. With the advent of the woman's movement in the 1970's, these programs spread all over the world. The Tubman Family Alliance in Minneapolis, MN is well known as a pioneer in family violence prevention. Their programs are considered a model in the USA and worldwide. They have a 24-hr. help line, legal advocacy, three shelters, youth and family support services, counseling and prevention education in schools. Their website is and their 24-hr. help line is 612-825-0000. Look under Domestic Violence Information and Treatment or Women's Organizations to find a similiar organization in your local phone book for your community. For the USA you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at or at 1-800-799-7233 for information on services. For international domestic violence information go to for your particular country, state or region.

Some religious traditions encourage partners to avoid divorce or separation at all costs even when health, safety and violence issues are involved. Do not take "Till Death Do Us Part" as a mantra. You do not have to tolerate abuse nor stay in a violent relationship.

Here are some signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship: 1) Is the person isolated from friends and family? 2) Does their partner keep unusually close tabs on a person's activities or whereabouts? 3) Does the person have no control over spending their own money? 4) Do you notice repeated unexplainable injuries?

Here are some signs of a potentially abusive personality: 1) Do they blame others for their problems? 2) Are they jealous of their partner's other relationships? 3) Are they cruel towards animals and children? 4) Do they have a controlling behavior?

The Alliance has some suggestions for development of a safety plan: 1) Think of a safe place to go when an argument occurs. 2) Make a list of safe people to contact. 3) Keep money for phone calls. 4) Establish a "code word" or "signal" so that family and friends know when to call for help. 5) Changing your number if you have left the relationship. 6) Document all contacts with the abuser. 7) Notify school and work contacts. 8) Only meet an ex-partner in a public place like a police station.

The Alliance has a variety of services available and some of these are available in other cities. They can help you with a safety plan, help you talk to your children about the violence, provide support groups for abusers and also for those who have experienced abuse, provide legal advocacy, provide shelter for women and children, provide assistance finding affordable housing and help with educational and financial goals. Some states mandate programs for abusers in which the abuser is court ordered to partake in groups and treatment like the State of Minnesota.

Here are some tips for those wanting to help in this situation: 1) Do believe the person. 2) Encourage them to talk, but do not force them to talk about the abuse. 3) Respect the need for confidentiality. 4) Listen without judgment. 5) Give them the time they need to make their own decisions.

Some things to avoid: 1) Don't tell them what to do. 2) Don't offer to talk to their partner to straighten things out. 3) Don't tell them they should stay because of the children.

These problems need to be openly discussed. There is a tendency towards living in our own worlds or thinking too much about our future life. Living in the here and now is important to solving these problems of family violence. Only you can prevent violence.




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