Domestic Violence

Copyright 2009; 2012, Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
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"Domestic Violence Hurts Everybody" Series

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  1. "Domestic Violence Hurts Everybody"
  2. "Heal Yourself and Break the Cycle of Violence"
  3. "Its Never Too Late to Help Yourself Heal from Childhood Sexual Abuse"

 

Letter to the Editor
Sent to Newspapers Island Wide in Hawai'i
October 1, 2009

 

"Domestic Violence Hurts Everybody"

by Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.

 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s a heartbreaking reality that domestic terrorism continues to take place within our neighbor’s homes. Domestic crimes result in devastating consequences, including long-term suffering, hospitalization, permanent injury, and death, making household violence everybody’s problem. Thinking of assaults as “family spats” or “a private matter” is mistaken and trivializing. Our community mustn’t tolerate domestic abuse. If you’re in an abusive relationship, or know someone who is, don’t stand by silently. Speak up about it and get help. Abusers must be held accountable for their behavior, and mandated to receive anger management and domestic violence treatment. Children need to grow up with good fathers and mothers, non-violent role models who teach by example that love is not abusive. Dating or domestic violence is good reason for ending a relationship. Bullying and verbal attacks are warning signs you must take seriously. Healthy relationships resolve conflict in ways that leave both parties feeling good about themselves, and never at the expense of one person’s feelings, safety, and wellbeing. If what’s coming at you from your date or mate hurts physically, psychologically, emotionally, or sexually, no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise, it isn’t love. It’s abuse.

Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard
Hilo, Hawai'i

 

An Open Letter to All
October 1, 2009

(Complete unabridged version)

“Domestic Violence Hurts Everybody”

by Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.

 

Dear Friends,

As October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I feel the need to review some unvarnished and disturbing facts with you. It’s a heartbreaking reality that domestic terrorism continues to take place within our neighbor’s homes. Due to the devastating consequences of these crimes, often resulting in life-long suffering, hospitalization, permanent injury, and death, domestic violence is everybody’s problem. As a caring and compassionate community, it’s our duty to show zero-tolerance to domestic abuse.

Dating abuse is defined as one partner physically, psychologically, emotionally, or sexually injuring the other partner. Domestic abuse is defined as a family or household member physically, psychologically, emotionally, or sexually injuring another member. Sometimes property is damaged. Other forms of dating and domestic violence include threatening to hurt you, other people, or pets. Many victims report that the psychological/emotional abuse can hurt as much or more than the actual physical or sexual mistreatment. The “Power and Control Wheel” shows that other forms of abuse usually occur along with physical violence, including intimidation, isolating a partner, blaming others, using children, abusing power, and controlling money, amongst others.

Injuries sustained at home from domestic violence
perpetrated by husbands and boyfriends
are the NUMBER ONE cause of injury to women.

No person of any decency can read this sobering statistic without profound feelings of revulsion and sadness over such savagery. Every day, countless women suffer physical assault at the hand of their intimate partners. It’s a staggering fact that at least three women are murdered daily in our country. While men brutalizing women is by far the most common form of domestic bloodshed, increasing numbers of women are injuring and murdering men as well. Domestic abuse occurs in families of every race, culture, sexual orientation, and socio-economic level. Regardless of the particulars, each person hurt or killed by domestic violence is a victim of inexcusable household terrorism.

In years past, issues of domestic violence were thought of as “a private matter” or “none of my business.” Yet when women and men suffer and die from violence between intimates, it becomes everybody’s business. As moral and right-minded human beings, we cannot stay quiet or stand by idly while abuse takes place in our communities. Make no mistake:  thinking of these assaults as “lover’s quarrels” or “family spats” is wrong and trivializing. Domestic abuse of any kind between intimates is irreconcilable with our very sense of humanity.

There is never an excuse for domestic violence.

NO EXCEPTIONS.

Regardless of the tears and promises given, we must cease to accept or believe the abuser’s justifications, rationalizations, minimizations, and any excuses or reasons they give—usually all too convincingly—for their atrocious and shameful behavior. Do not believe your abuser’s explanation for their abusive conduct, nor expect your abuser to keep their promise that it won’t happen again. The bottom line is that the perpetration of domestic violence is always misguided and unacceptable. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, or know someone who is, do not stand by silently. Speak up about it and get help for your own and your family’s sake. Children need to grow up with good fathers and mothers, non-violent role models who teach by example that love is not abusive.

Men and women who abuse their partner often seek to justify their behaviors by blaming their victim. Victims of domestic violence are never to blame, no matter what the abuser tells you and regardless of the particulars. By blaming the victim, the abuser wrongly—though often effectively—attempts to convince the abused person that they, themselves, are completely responsible for the abuser’s hostile actions against them. Yet nothing could be further from the truth! To assist victims in breaking free from this distorted reality, we must fund, establish, and maintain community-based violence prevention programs that provide aid to victims, as well as their children, in escaping hostile environments. Creating such safe and supportive places, where shelter, counseling, and community assistance is provided to victims of domestic terrorism, will empower those being harmed to leave their abuser and begin rebuilding their lives.

While women are the primary victims of domestic mistreatment, families are also hurt. Children suffer terribly from abuse, even when they’re nothing more than witnesses to it and are not personally attacked. Family and friends are also often traumatized, threatened, and abused as well when they attempt to assist the victim. Again, as an enlightened society, we must have zero-tolerance for domestic abuse of any kind. We cannot allow millions of women, children, and family members in our country to live in fear for their safety and lives. It is our collective responsibility, as individuals and as a community, to help those who need it by assisting and protecting those suffering under the hand of abusers.

It is a crime to batter one’s partner. Those men and women who do must be held accountable to the fullest extent of legal and social sanctions. If you are presently a victim of a violent domestic episode, or ever are in the future, call the police immediately and file a police report.

Abusers need to be held accountable for their actions.

Your abuser may be arrested for physically harming, or threatening to harm, you or another family member. Remember:  domestic violence is a crime. Offenders must be mandated to receive anger management and domestic violence treatment for their dishonorable conduct. They also need to be given a warning that legal charges will be pursued should they ever again assault or threaten to hurt you or anyone else. When circumstances demand it, abusers must be sent to prison for their crimes.

To heal and recover from their distorted thinking and lack of self-control, perpetrators of abuse have no option but to seek treatment. Nevertheless, treatment only stands a chance of being effective if the perpetrator is honestly willing to admit, first to themselves and next to their family, that they really do have a very serious problem. Abusers must sincerely accept complete responsibility for their past and present bullying thinking and behaviors, and be willing to do the hard work of retraining their thinking and behavioral patterns. Otherwise, the cycle of violence will undoubtedly continue unbroken, leaving the victim with the only rational recourse of divorcing or ending the relationship with the abuser.

Treatment for domestic violence is MANDATORY.

NOT OPTIONAL.

Similar to alcohol and drug rehabilitation, the domestic abuser must learn new and healthier ways in which to deal with their anger, intimidating mindset, low frustration tolerance, and poor impulse control. The abuser must seek professional counseling to cease all forms of brutality. While in treatment, the abuser’s major focus will be on how to self-manage their emotions and impulses appropriately. This is primarily accomplished by learning how to change their distorted thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors into those of a healthy and non-domineering mindset. Only by taking this approach will the perpetrator of violence ever gain the necessary awareness and self-control required to live a safe, healthy, and violence-free life. The abuser must come to genuinely recognize, unconditionally accept, and fully take responsibility for the complete unacceptability of their past acts of violence. If abusers don’t seek professional treatment to correct and overcome their controlling ways of thinking and behaving, it’s as good as certain that all of their relationships will be doomed.

Even with treatment, abuser’s and their families need to accept the unappealing possibility that the abuser’s explosive emotions and impulses may very well continue their entire life long, despite their fullest compliance and successful completion of treatment. The only way abusers can live violence-free is to learn and apply self-directed cognitive-behavioral skills, including but not limited to thought stopping and impulse control, which interrupt the cycle of violence. Regardless, lasting change is hopeless unless the abuser successfully completes treatment. Even then, change is wholly dependent upon their exclusive use of well-behaved, nonviolent methods when dealing with their own and other’s emotional agitation and frustration. When it comes to bringing about major self-directed behavioral change, like everything else in life of any value, you’ve got to work it for it to work.

It is the individual responsibility for each of us to learn, practice, and apply emotional self-control, and to manage ourselves nonviolently in all our relationships with others. If we don’t, we’ll have no choice but to deal with the ugly consequences of our own emotional reactions and impulses that hijack common sense and gag good conscience. To avoid this fate, the only approach worth taking in life is to walk the non-reactive paths of emotional sobriety and abstention from violence.

The sole way abusers can ever learn to manage and diffuse their “controlling rage-oholism” is by successfully completing anger management and domestic violence prevention programs. From then on, they must follow a life-long practice of nonviolent principles. Abuse is never a normal part of relating while dating or mating. The abuser has a plan for you:  controlling your life for their own selfish needs. Love is a behavior, and abuse is deliberate!

Never deceive yourself:  nobody can change your abuser but him or her self, and even then, only if s/he is willing to get professional treatment. If s/he is unwilling or unable to do so, you must do what is right for yourself and your family and get away from them. You are not alone, help is there for you, but first you must take the steps to break the silence and bravely ask for help.

Do NOT remain quiet about abuse.

Speak about it openly and honestly to trusted family
members, friends, spiritual advisors, and professionals.

Ask for their help.

You never hurt the one you love. Love doesn’t intentionally cause harm, though angry, controlling, selfish abusers do. If you are a victim of domestic violence, don’t think you can control your abuser’s violence, or believe that it’s your fault or blame. For all intents and purposes, healthy and long-lasting nonviolent behavior change is impossible without long-term professional treatment. This fact becomes even more disturbing when you understand that most batterers tend to minimize and blame others for their violent behaviors. Further exasperating, most offenders vigorously deny that they even have a problem! Therefore, no matter what your abuser tries to tell you differently,

You never deserve to be struck or abused.

YOU are not at fault.

Domestic violence hurts everyone. In the present global crisis state, nearly everyone agrees we must commit to battling and taking all necessary steps towards eradicating terrorism wherever we find it.

Terrorism that takes place in the home
through domestic violence must also be eradicated.

The first time you realize you’re in a destructive relationship is the time to terminate it—the sooner the better—as your life may literally depend on it. Never confuse a dysfunctional relationship defined by pain, conflict, and violence with love and passion. It’s important that you recognize the warning signs of unhealthy love. Acts of jealousy, possessiveness, controlling, threatening, blaming, and isolating a partner from family and friends are all signs of insecurity, not of love. Such unhealthy power and control plays have nothing to do with love and affection and everything to do with your abuser’s own selfishness and power tripping. Healthy relationships resolve conflict in ways that leave both parties feeling good about themselves, and never at the expense of one person’s feelings, safety, and well-being.

No matter what the particular circumstances, all bullying and abuses are warning signs that need your attention. Dating violence or domestic abuse is a good reason for ending a relationship. Without exception, healthy love is caring and protective and never intentionally hurtful, exploitive, or violent. If what’s coming at you from your date or mate hurts physically, psychologically, emotionally, or sexually, no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise, it isn’t love. It’s abuse.

We are our brother and sister’s keeper after all.

Children deserve to grow up in a healthy and loving environment, and at the very minimum, everyone is entitled to reside in a safe and nonviolent household. Domestic violence must be exterminated within every home it infests. For children and adults alike, mental and emotional health, self-esteem, and overall well-being can only develop and thrive within caring, safe, and non-abusive environments.

Abuse is often generational, yet the cycle can and must be broken. I know what I'm talking about. As a youthful victim of generational family violence while growing up, and later as a young man on my own starting to perpetrate it myself, I realized I had a problem and sought professional help to overcome it. Over the years, my own healing journey would ultimately lead me to become a counseling psychologist specializing in behavior change. Ever since, I have helped thousands of others to break the cycle of violence and live non-violently, just as I have now been happily doing in my own life for over 25 years. Anyone can—and everyone must—learn to live non-violently for their own and their family’s sake. You just have to want to change badly enough to get the help you need to do it.

 

With loving kindness,

Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard
Hilo, Hawai'i

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An Open Letter to All
November 13, 2009

 

“Heal Yourself and Break the Cycle of Violence”

by Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.

 

Dear Friends,
In my October 1st letter to the editor, I discussed the need for our community to step up and take action that helps to end the domestic terrorism happening inside our neighbor's homes. I also spoke of the necessity for legally mandating treatment for domestic abusers. Several responses in both agreement and disagreement have since been voiced prompting me now to elaborate further.

Years of research have shown that only through professional treatment—and a lifetime in compliance with non-violent principles—do abusers and those s/he abuses stand any chance of breaking free from the cycle of violence. The goal of anger management and abuser treatment is twofold: to stop the violence and whenever possible, preserve the family. Everyone has a right to live in their home without fear for their safety or well-being. Only when an abuser completely abandons the faulty thinking, selfishness, and inexcusable use of force, power, and control behind their actions is it possible for a family to live together in a healthy environment.

In its place, abusers must adopt and practice a non-violent mindset that adheres to zero tolerance for abusive acts of any kind. Over the course of their daily lives, abusers must exercise persistent and consistent self-directed impulse control and behavior modification. Change is attainable, however, it is only possible when an abuser sincerely wants to change and makes every effort to heal their abusive behavior.

Abuse is often generational, yet the cycle can and must be broken. I know what I'm talking about. As a victim of generational family violence as a youth, and later as a young man starting to perpetrate it myself, I was able to recognize I had a problem and sought professional help to overcome it. Over the years, my own healing journey would ultimately lead me to become a counseling psychologist specializing in behavior change. Ever since, I have helped thousands of others to break the cycle of violence and live non-violently, just as I have now been happily doing in my own life for well over 25 years. Anyone can—and everyone must—learn to live non-violently for their own and their family’s sake. You just have to want to change badly enough to get the help you need to do it.

Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard
Hilo, Hawai'i

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Letter to the Editor
Sent to Newspapers Island Wide in Hawai'i
October 22, 2012

 

“It’s Never Too Late to Help Yourself Heal

From Childhood Sexual Abuse”

 

By Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
Board Certified Clinical Sexologist

 

Introduction

As it is every year, October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Recent news stories of child pornography originating from the Big Island, followed closely by the subsequent arrest of a child sexual abuse suspect by federal agents in the Puna District, have spurred me to compose the following report on childhood sexual abuse.

Domestic violence—which includes child sexual abuse—can occur in any family, regardless of its race, religion, or income level. Statistics today tell us that as many as one in three girls and one in four boys have been sexually violated by an adult. The real tragedy and common denominator of all forms of domestic violence is that victims live their lives in fear.

 

Childhood Sexual Abuse:  What is it?

Childhood sexual abuse is defined as a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child or minor—defined as anyone under 18—for sexual stimulation. Sometimes sexual abuse includes physical “punishment” and/or abuse of power by an adult or someone in a position of authority that at the time as a child may have seemed “normal” because you were too young to know differently.

Childhood sexual abuse occurs when an adult or older adolescent engages in any form of sexual or otherwise inappropriate adult-child conduct, including but not limited to:  Talking to you in a sexual or otherwise inappropriate way that leaves you feeling bad, anxious, or diminished. Or watching you undress or bathe, making you look at or watch pornographic pictures and movies, or photographing you in inappropriate ways. Touching you sexually or in an inappropriate way, or making you touch them or someone else sexually or in an inappropriate way, are all forms of childhood sexual abuse.

Forcing you to watch or talking you into watching others act in a sexual way, or forcing you to have or talking you into having sex with an adult, are also child sexual abuse no matter whether you “agreed” to it at the time. Regardless of the circumstances, there is never an acceptable reason or excuse for an adult or older adolescent to interact sexually with a child, not even if the child goes along with it “willingly”—ever. So we are clear, children simply do not possess the developmental cognitive ability—nor the legal capability— required to give informed sexual consent.

And sex without consent is always rape. Rape is an ugly word for an even uglier act. If you don’t give consent and sex is forced on you, or you force sex upon someone without his or her consent, its rape. Because children are incapable of giving informed consent, any adult or older adolescent having sex with a child or otherwise molesting or sexually exploiting children is unquestionably a sexual predator. As every fully formed adult with any human decency knows, adult-child sex is always a crime, morally repugnant, and just flat-out wrong.

 

Common Problems Resulting from Childhood Abuse

The crime of sexually or physically violating a child leaves much more than physical injuries, pain, and scars. It also leaves devastating psychological, emotional, and spiritual wounds as well. What is taken from sexually abused children is a precious part of their unified core self. Their once intact sense of being in possession of an unconditional right to exist, along with the expectation that their personhood is innately worthy of respect and securely protected from violation, have all been irrecoverably shattered by abuse.

In addition, the social and emotional isolation that adult childhood survivors of sexual abuse often experience increases vulnerability and long-term risk for a range of physical and mental health problems, including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, suicidal ideation and behavior, increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, sexual identity confusion, sexual dysfunctions, sexually acting out, and relationship problems.

 

Potholes on the Road to Recovery

The effects of stressful experiences, including those of being sexual abused as a child, are cumulative and can last long past childhood into adulthood. And yet, it is not uncommon for childhood victims of abuse—whether sexual, physical, and/or emotional—to later minimize the impact it had upon them then and has upon them now as adults, often for many years or decades. Some even deny or hide their victimization for their entire lifetime.

Generally, the longer the abuse remains untreated, the longer the accompanying pain and disempowerment that goes along with it lasts. Yet most childhood survivors of abuse choose to suffer in silence, thankful that no one can tell from looking at them that they were once subject to abuse. They usually prefer not to dwell on the past abuse or discuss it with others, and think others wouldn’t understand even if they did. They desperately hope or unrealistically assume they are “over it” and can now get on with their lives. They tell themselves it happened long ago, I’m past it or words to that effect.

And they believe it—or at least try to—until issues later in life as a result of their abuse catch up with them. Common problems following exposure to childhood abuse include but are not limited to:  Poor self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse, inability to emotionally connect and relate, sexual hang-ups, and repeated relationship failures that arise and force them to reexamine their lives, their thoughts, feelings, and belief systems.

As a result of sexual abuse, the survivor’s self-image and beliefs regarding sex, love and intimacy are typically filled with cognitive distortions and problems. Essentially, childhood sexual abuse wreaks havoc with a child’s psychological “lovemap” and their subsequent ability as an adult to emotionally bond with others within intimate relationships.

 

Healing Childhood Abuse with Counseling

Those who were sexually molested as children must often later struggle as adults to identify, explore, and ultimately integrate a positive and healthy adult identity despite negative self-images due to childhood sexual trauma. They must learn to accept themselves, to find authentic intimacy through relationships, work, and play, and by establishing connection with the broader community.

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and still struggling to feel whole again, help is available. Look in your phone book and online for local and state agencies and private therapists that offer professional childhood abuse treatment services for survivors of sexual abuse. Often these services are offered at no charge or for a very nominal fee from social service agencies, so don’t let the fear of payment costs keep you from calling.

No doubt you will find a supportive and understanding individual at the other end of the line, ready to confidentially assist you in finding the right clinician or group for you. Have courage, for as many who once felt like you have learned and can bear witness today, with help comes hope.

One of the secrets to a happy life is learning to keep a short memory to painful things. Never let anyone live rent-free in your head! Counseling can help. By making peace with the past and moving on, many survivors of sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse go on to lead full, happy, and well-adjusted lives. The intelligent approach insists that you stubbornly refuse to allow your abuser to victimize you for the rest of your life.

 

Speak Up about Childhood Abuse to Get the Help You Need

Before closing, I am compelled to think the unthinkable and state what still cries out to be stated. Heaven forbid, the following is directed to anyone younger than 18 now reading this article:  If you or another minor you know has ever been or is now currently being sexually abused by anyone, if you haven’t done so already, tell your parents or trusted adults immediately and report it to the police.

Likewise, if anyone suspects a minor is being sexually or otherwise abused, don’t stand by silently—speak up about it. Talk to family, friends, counselors and spiritual advisers and ask for help or offer your support.

Be assured that it is never too late to disclose your abuse, no matter how many years or decades ago it happened. You will find the emotional release that follows from exposing your long held dark secret to the light of day is incredible.

 

A Plea to Whom It May Concern
(And You Know Who You Are)

Love shouldn’t hurt. Should you be a perpetrator of domestic violence—no matter whether sexual, physical, and/or emotional—you need to get professional counseling to break free of it before it causes you to hurt anyone again. Treatment isn’t optional—it’s mandatory.

Abuse is often multi-generational, yet the cycle of violence can and must be broken. I know what I’m talking about. I speak as both a survivor of childhood physical abuse and—with over 30 years of non-violent conduct now under my belt—a reformed adult perpetrator of it. Back as a young man starting to commit physical abuses myself, I was able to recognize I had a problem and thankfully sought professional help to overcome it.

The choice is yours to make. Love protects. You must seek treatment if you want to improve your life and the lives of those you profess to love. You just have to want to change badly enough to get the help you need to do it.

For everyone’s sake, make that call today.

 

Final Note

What I have to say next applies to everybody. Should anyone ever demand, coerce, or otherwise try to force you to engage in sexual conduct and/or contact that you don’t want, insist that they stop immediately and put up a storm of verbal and physical resistance if they don’t. No one ever has a right to put his or her hands on you without your permission. Stand your ground and refuse to give in.

If anyone persists in sexually harassing you despite your repeated protests to stop, or attempts to push themselves sexually upon you by any means of force, threat, abuse of authority, or emotional blackmail, take whatever evasive actions are necessary to extricate yourself and escape from the situation. If you are a minor, tell your parents or trusted adults about it—and file a police report—especially when the person is an adult or older adolescent and is in a position of authority.

No matter your age or the age of the sexual aggressor, should an actual sexual assault take place against you or someone you know, immediately report it to the police. Child sexual predators and those perpetrating sexual violence need to be held accountable for their actions. And when justice demands it, convicted molesters need to be sent to prison for their crimes.     

Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard
Hilo, Hawai’i

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Aloha and A Hui Hou!

 

Anthurium