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News > Healthy relationship skills can prevent domestic violence
Healthy relationship skills can prevent domestic violence

Posted 9/26/2012   Updated 9/28/2012 Email story   Print story


by Chris McCann
JBER Public Affairs

9/26/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The 2011 Alaska Victimization Survey results for Anchorage showed that more than 50 percent of adult women in the Municipality of Anchorage have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both, in their lifetime.

More than 8 percent have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both, in the past year.

Three out of every 10 adult women in the Municipality of Anchorage have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime; and four out of every 10 have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Domestic violence is unfortunately a problem in the military just as much as in the rest of society, but the military has more ability to combat the problem.

Preventing violence before it occurs is clearly preferable to intervening after the fact, and across the military, installations have implemented initiatives to provide information and skills to service members.

"They say in snowboarding, it takes three tries to 'get' it," said Diann Richardson, an outreach manager with JBER's Family Advocacy Program. "The more you do it, the easier it gets."

Much like no one is born knowing how to snowboard, no one is born knowing how to have healthy relationships.

Those skills are learned - and if you're doing unhealthy things, you can learn to do the right things.

"A lot of people believe that domestic violence is about anger issues," said Jennifer Frysz, also an outreach manager.

"But no one wakes up thinking 'I'm going to beat up my spouse today," Frysz said. "They're not bad people - they just haven't learned ways to deal with things in a healthy way."

"People need to get out of the mindset that just because there are problems, that makes them dysfucntional," Frysz said. "People can acknowledge there's conflict, and the important thing is how we solve it."

Behaviors that are healthy during deployment - like avoiding or repressing a problem - can be unhelpful when a service member returns home, said Verna Loosli, who is also an ourtreach manager.

A deployed Soldier often must ignore things he knows are going on at home, because executing a mission in Afghanistan takes precedence. But at home, avoiding issues can make a person much more likely to lash out when things reach critical mass.

"When, on deployment, (avoiding things) keeps you alive, that's a strong reinforcement," Loosli said.

"A lot of people don't want to talk about (relationship issues); they're apt to turn the other cheek, Frysz said. "But it can have long-term repercussions."

Technology, for as helpful as it is, can also cause issues.

"If it's an important or stressful subject, that's not the time for technology," Frysz said. "That requires face-to-face talking. People tend to hide behind technology to say things they wouldn't normally say. Technology is no place for arguments, problems, or reprimands - whether it's personal, business, or anything else." People can easily misinterpret messages on Facebook or email or texts, because there is no tone of voice or facial expressions.

"Use it for positive - practice the habit of increasing resilience instead of breeding negativity," Frysz said. "Look for the positives in the other person and focus on those."
Children as young as two years old can show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder due to violence between parents, Loosli said. And abuse can effect unborn children as well, due to stress on the mother that can lead to pre-term delivery, fetal fractures and low birth weight. Children can display irritability, bed-wetting, digestive and sleep problems, and failure to thrive. Ultimately, many go on to be abusers or abused themselves.

Chronic stress when children realize that home is not a safe place literally changes a child's brain, Loosli said.

JBER's Family Advocacy Program hosts numerous classes on subjects like couples' communication, marriage preparation, and help in choosing a dating partner.

"All relationships have problems, because we're all human," Richardson said. "People think talking about problems is a problem, and it isn't. There's nothing wrong with getting help, and reaching out is okay. Even in great relationships, people need help sometimes. We're not judgmental here."

If you see a problem - if an argument devolves into one-upping each other and is escalating, that's a sign to stop and re-evaluate, Frysz said.

"Is it really about the toilet paper or the toothpaste tube, or is there something underlying that? 'I feel' statements can be very strong."

Simply switching from "you always leave the cap off the toothpaste" to "I feel like you don't respect how hard I work to keep the bathroom clean" can change the situation from a confrontation to a discussion.

Often, changing your expectations can keep things from getting out of control.
"If there's more than one person, there's going to be conflict," Richardson said. "So respect the differences, and don't expect mind-reading.

"Respect your partner's needs - if your spouse needs downtime after work, respect that.Every relationship is different; my husband and I have conflicts, but we manage our emotions and everyone is safe."

Family maltreatment is an issue that everyone needs to combat, Frysz said.

Anyone who suspects an abusive situation can contact Family Advocacy and help people get they assistance they need.

"Everyone in the community needs to be proactive and be a support system," Loosli said. "There are some risk factors - especially people with limited support and life skills. Everyone's a reporter of abuse, and everyone has a responsibility to say something."
While most people aren't police officers or social workers, they can still provide support.
"No one wants a bad relationship," Loosli said. "We can offer them a way out."

"At least half of the people referred to (Family Advocacy) make positive changes," Richardson said. "Couples can be restored."

Outreach personnel are always available, Loosli said. In addition to regularly scheduled classes, they also will teach at formations, command-and-staff meetings, and other events.

October is recognized by the Army as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this year's theme is "Choose Respect," said Richardson.

One of the month's activities will be a costume dance at the Arctic Warrior Events Center from 8 to 11 p.m. Oct. 19; it's free of charge and both couples and singles are welcome.

To get help, get involved, or get a class schedule, call 580-5858.

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