Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Combating Domestic Abuse: We're not there yet

First day of Crisis Service Training is over and it went well. We listened to two speakers discuss domestic abuse, its symptoms and the reasons why it persists. What set this discussion apart from the usual awareness programs is that a lot of the material was introduced in question form. This method forces listeners to really consider a concept, as anyone with a child must surely understand. It's one of those moments where you're asked to define something and you realize you're not as informed as you really thought you were.

What is domestic abuse? Believe it or not, there was complete silence for sometime. What makes this deafening response so surprising is that there were several attendees who worked and volunteered at various women's crisis centers.

The problem is that domestic abuse has not received the exposure it deserves. It is a broad category used to define a multitude of symptoms. Financial abuse is a subset of that underlying behavior that has found itself tucked in between layers of patterns that only a specialist on the matter can identify. In the meantime, scores of women worldwide suffer in silence because not every woman who is financially abused is physically assaulted. This makes it more difficult to reach out to this silent group and help them escape a cycle of torment and humiliation. Lack of access to money is the primary reason why victims choose to stay in abusive relationships. If we cant identify these women through noticeable bruises, then how can we help them gain the confidence to leave?

Financial education is the solution, although it is difficult to train these women when they cant be identified. The judicial and legislative branches have failed them because there are no safeguards to protect these women from economic manipulation. So, we find ourselves still fighting to preserve their dignity with shelters and counseling, but no safeguards from their spouses walking away with all their assets.

The night ended with a question to echo the stimulating lesson of the night: Why haven't there been laws passed to protect women from economic abuse?

We haven't come that far, was the response. It's about time we do, isn't it?

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