THE ISSUE: Prevalence of domestic abuse in county.
OUR OPINION: Silence, fear are abuse’s allies: Don’t suffer, and don’t be a silent witness.
“All I wanted was stability. A man who stayed around for 18 years, even if he beat me, to me, that was still stability.”
That anonymous quote comes from a recent group day at the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association — an occasion for women who have broken free of their personal prisons to share, commiserate, connect and be reminded that they are not alone. It says much about domestic abuse here in Citrus and writ large, played out as it is in sobs and shouts in countless homes across the nation.
From 2005 to 2015, domestic abuse has comprised an average of 31 percent of the county’s reported crimes, according to annual data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Take that in: Nearly a full third of the county’s reported crime is related to domestic abuse — and while the abuse has trended down in the state over the past decades, progress in the county has been less consistent. Since 2005, the per- capita rate of domestic violence in Citrus has exceeded the rate in Florida as a whole, meaning people living here are more likely to be subjected to it than in many other places in the state.
At the root of domestic abuse, and at the root of the abusive relationships in which it exists, are power and control: The need to domineer, and sometimes, to be domineered.
Physical abuse — striking, manhandling, choking — is readily apparent for what it is. But domestic abuse begins long before matters become physical, and those who know what signs to look for can avoid becoming entrenched in a relationship that is not only painful, but potentially deadly.
Here are some of the behaviors typical of abusive relationships, and ways they commonly manifest:
* The use of coercion and threats — threatening to leave the relationship, inflict physical harm on oneself or others, or use privileged information as retaliation — in order to get one’s way.
* Intimidation, or using physical or verbal force — against people, pets or property — to render someone else subservient or terrorize them.
* Emotional abuse, including insults, emotional manipulation, guilt trips and gaslighting. This can also include using children or other loved ones as leverage to get one’s way or make another person feel guilty. When children are used as messengers, it is also harmful to the children.
* Restraining physical freedom, to include limiting when and where someone may go, the company they keep, the money they spend, grooming and dressing and the interests they pursue.
* Blame, denial and minimalization: Devaluing someone else’s opinions, denying the truth when confronted with it and shifting responsibility to other people.
* Using economic leverage: Trying to control someone else’s career or career choices, exerting control over someone else’s money, hiding income or assets.
If you frequently find yourself attracted to or in relationships with abusive people, it is time to look within and get help from without, either from a mental- health professional or from a support center such as the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association (CASA). People subjected to trauma often become accustomed to it, subconsciously seeking out similar experiences because those situations feel perversely comforting or stable. They are not, and failure to change ensures the cycle continues.
If you find yourself engaging in any of the behaviors described above and want to stop, nonjudgmental help is available. Start by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or by visiting thehotline.org/help/for-abusive-partners or loveisrespect.org/for-yourself/can-i-stop-being-abusive.
If you are currently the victim of domestic abuse, do not suffer in silence. Help is available, and you should avail yourself of it. CASA has advocates ready to help every hour of the day and night. Call 352-344-8111 or toll-free 800-500-1119.