Break the cycle of domestic violence

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

You are not alone. You are not to blame, you do not deserve to be abused and, there is help available to those involved in relationships where they are subjected to domestic violence.

That’s the message Suffolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, C. Phillips Ferguson, would like to broadcast across Suffolk. In most instances, if you are not a victim of domestic violence, you know someone who is victimized by someone exhibiting harmful behavior.

Ferguson and his staff recently participated in a week-long effort to help educate people about domestic violence. It was part of a national &uot;Prevent Domestic Violence Week&uot; campaign.

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As Ferguson said, however, this tragic problem is not something deserving only a week’s attention. It’s an ongoing problem and one that he and his prosecuting staff see all too often in Suffolk’s courtrooms. In this city, more than 300 cases of domestic violence pass through the courts each year.

&uot;Domestic violence is a crime that quietly poisons our families and society behind the closed doors of our homes,&uot; he said. &uot;My staff and I continue to attack this cowardly crime on all fronts to ensure the women and children of Suffolk can live their lives free from terror and abuse.&uot;

Ferguson also noted that &uot;battering&uot; is not the only form domestic violence takes. He said domestic violence is behavior – emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual – that one person in an intimate relationship uses in order to control the other.

&uot;It takes many different forms and includes behavior such as threats, name-calling, isolation, withholding of money, actual or threatened physical harm and sexual assault,&uot; said the prosecutor. &uot;Most domestic violence is committed against women by their male partners. It also occurs in lesbian and gay relationships and is common in teenage dating relationships. In a small number of cases, men are abused by female partners, but in any case, every victim of domestic violence, whether female or male, gay or heterosexual, has the right to legal relief.&uot;

According to Ferguson, domestic violence can be criticizing remarks about your abilities as a spouse or partner, parent or employee. Threatening bodily harm to you or your children, and even the family pet or a friend can be a way of controlling a victim. Some abusers try to prevent victims from seeing family members or friends, and most get suddenly angry or &uot;lose their temper.&uot; Threatening to destroy personal property is another means of control by abusers, and some abusers use intimidation or manipulation to control victims and their children by hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, shoving, choking or biting.

&uot;Any person who is a victim of domestic violence must realize that it’s not going to end until something is done about it,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;That ‘something’ generally involves the criminal justice system. This does not mean the abuser is necessarily going to jail, but that the courts will intervene to try to get help for the abused and the family as well. We have to show the abuser that he can be a better father and husband and that is our mission here.&uot;

Ferguson added that it is extremely important to break the cycle of domestic violence within a family.

&uot;If there are children in an abusive situation, they learn to abuse and grow up thinking this is appropriate behavior,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;Then, it’s carried on into that generation. We must break that cycle so that the children do not grow up to become either the victim or the abuser. Generally speaking, it’s not going to stop until there is some type of intervention. My staff and I are here to help break that cycle.&uot;

Two members of Ferguson’s staff, Sonya Abbott and James Wieser, are active throughout the year serving as advocates for victims of domestic violence. Abbott serves as an assistant to Diane Bryant, the director of Ferguson’s &uot;Victim/Witness Program,&uot; the program that helps throughout the entire court process and beyond. Wieser prosecutes domestic violence cases.

Wieser said that safety should be one of the prime factors in reporting cases of domestic violence.

&uot;In some instances, people are reluctant to talk about their situation and it goes unreported until it erupts into violence and then it comes to our office,&uot; he said. &uot;We want people to know that we are here to help, and if they feel uncomfortable talking to me, they may speak with Sonya Abbott, who is invaluable to me in working with our clients. Some clients can respond better to a woman.&uot;

For more information on domestic violence, or if you need help to stop abusive behavior or you’re a victim, call 923-2221.