Thank you Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard for the opportunity to re-publish another great article from your reservoir of works.
Letter to the Editor
Sent to Newspapers Island Wide in Hawai’i
October 1, 2009
“Domestic Violence Hurts Everybody”
Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
Board Certified Clinical Sexologist
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
An Open Letter to All
October 1, 2009
(Complete unabridged version)
“Domestic Violence Hurts Everybody”
by Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
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.
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, treatmentonly 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.
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
Your comments are welcomed and appreciated!