By Kevin Wang
For the last year or so, I’ve been discussing topics that deal with just the physical side of medicine. These subjects range from the flu, preventative topics about the Pap Smear and prostate exams and hepatitis. This month, I’d like to talk about something that’s very prevalent in all communities and something that we should all learn about – domestic violence.
Domestic violence is something that is very real and something that I have unfortunately seen in my medical career. It is defined as intentional controlling or violent behavior by a person who is or was in an intimate relationship with the victim. This controlling behavior may include physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional abuse, economic control or social isolation from his/her friends and family. These relationships are usually characterized by unpredictable outbursts by the abuser. As the relationship continues, the victim lives in a state of constant fear, terrified when the next episode of abuse will occur.
These abusers are everywhere and can be any person. This person can be any age, ethnicity or from any economic background. These people tend to be nice and have great public personas and images but can be quite violent when at home with the victim. The relationship may start out great but the abuser may begin to isolate the victim from friends and family. An episode of abuse may occur – sexual, physical, emotional, economic – and then may be followed by a period of profuse apology. This episode may be followed by a “honeymoon” period that may then be followed by another abusive episode.
Victims of abuse end up suffering from profound psychological harm and developing anxiety and/or depression. Many end up self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs as a way to numb themselves from the pain. Let’s not forget the physical side as many end up developing fractures, concussions and may even result in fatal outcomes.
For those not in an abusive relationship, it’s easy to tell others to get out and seek help. Victims of abuse are usually not ready to leave for fear of payback from the abuser, economic dependence on the abuse or no place to go due to isolation.
In the cases of domestic violence, there’s no pill, operation or therapy to make things better. My goal for writing this article is to provide everyone with an increased sense of awareness that it’s out there. Besides the information that I wrote above, there are some clues to the presence of an abusive relationship.
- Inconsistent explanations for injuries or delays in seeking treatment
- Victim become more and more isolated from friends and family
- Victim appears to be depressed or anxious in the presence of the abuser
In the clinic that I work at, I do see a number of people in abusive relationships. The most important aspect of counseling these people is support. Although I can’t give out my pager number here, I always make sure that I’m available for my patients. In the case for the readers of BTL, be a support for your friends who are in an abusive relationship. I also have my patients memorize numbers for the county abuse shelter and the number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Listed below are some numbers for you to contact should you be a victim of abuse or know someone who is a victim.
- First Step in Wayne County: 24 Hr Help Line 734-459-5900 or (888) 453-5900
- Michigan Family Violence Hotline: 800-996-6228
- Turning Point, Inc. in Macomb County: Crisis Hotline 586-463-6990
- HAVEN in Oakland County: Crisis Hotline 248-334-1274 or 877-922-1274
- DV Project SafeHouse in Washtenaw County: 734-995-5444
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE
- There’s also a website that has all the organizations and phone number for the domestic violence shelters in all the counties in Michigan: http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/states/michdv.shtml
Please be aware that domestic violence is out there and is very real. You may be a victim of abuse or a friend/family member may be a victim. I hope this column makes you more aware of domestic violence. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me at the e-mail address below. I hope this column finds you in good health and spirits and I’ll see you next month!