Children and Domestic Violence
Breaking the Cycle

Last week I noted that there would be a Part II to my letter regarding not only surviving, but thriving in life after domestic violence. The FVC of Yancey County and other DV programs of our kind are still devoted to being reactionary agencies (i.e. becoming involved after an incident of violence has occurred in order to protect and help break the cycle of violence in the family’s life). However, more and more we are focusing on prevention based services. How do we as a culture keep violence from occurring in the first place? How can we prevent it?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to explaining why the abuser is abusive. I want to go on record as noting that both men and women can be “the abuser” in any given relationship, but DV statistics clearly indicate that males in our society are usually the abusive partner in DV cases. There is not enough room in this format to discuss the other schools of thought, but I welcome anyone with other ideas to write to this newspaper. My own personal theory after 23 years or more working with people in the field of human services (ten years devoted to working with homeless people, twelve years as a DSS Child protective Services Social Worker, and now over one year as the Executive Director of the FVC), is that no child deliberately sets out to grow into an adult who is an angry, abusive, and sometimes labeled as a “monstrous” person. More likely than not, the adult abuser was once a child who experienced violence in his life. The abuser normally has a fragile ego and is very insecure, but he applies tactics of power and control over his victim(s) which makes him appear to be “in control.” He is, in fact, “out of control” inwardly.

I am not offering excuses for abusive behaviors. Do violent people who commit acts of violence against other people need to be punished? Yes they do. Do they need interventions to help unlearn the negative behaviors? Yes they do. Once the abusive adult has been created, then society has to respond to protect people from this abusive individual.

What I and others in this field, hand in hand with the Department of Social Services, argue is that we have to do a better job as a society, as communities, and as individuals to prevent the violent adult from being created in the first place. Children need to come into families when the parents are able to take care of these little people – to nurture them and love them, not to beat them, sexually abuse them, and/or verbally /emotionally abuse them. The old adage, “children learn what they live” is true. We have got to better educate our teen-agers and young adults before they start having children. Anti-social personality disordered adults, what we used call sociopaths or psychopaths, are created within the environment in which they grow up. They just don’t spontaneously become abusive, law intolerant, violent people. We as a society teach our children how to read and write and perform math related skills. We do not do such a great job in teaching our children how to be good parents. We have the resources and the abilities to change that pattern and ultimately help really break the cycle of violence in our society. We spend billions and trillions of dollars to facilitate death and destruction. In comparison we spend precious little of our resources on preventing violence. I have no real easily obtainable answers regarding how we are going to accomplish the work that needs to be done here without more prevention based funding. We as a society are at a critical mass juncture with violence in the United States alone. Next week I hope to discuss the issue ofviolent teen aged girls/young adult females in our community.

Samantha L. Phipps
Executive Director
Family Violence Coalition of Yancey County, Inc.