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News > Commentary - Don’t just be aware – do something about domestic violence
Don’t just be aware – do something about domestic violence

Posted 10/22/2012   Updated 10/22/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Keith Muschinske
JBER Chaplain

10/22/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARSDON, Alaska -- "It is not enemies who taunt me - I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me - I could hide from them. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng." Psalm 55:12-14

It seems every month, nay, almost every day, "something."

"This is Fire Prevention month. No, it's Sarcastic Month. Today is Egg Day." And it certainly must be "The Year of the Zombie!" One almost hopes for a day truly of their own - nothing special added.

But noting all "those days" shouldn't lessen the significance of something like this month's designation as domestic violence month. Indeed, matters of such significance should not require their own "special month" but instead be a concern for each of us, each and every day of the year.

Still, for many of us, our first thought when we hear the words "domestic violence" may be, "That hasn't happened to anyone I know."

This would usually be the time to pull out 150 different sets of numbers "proving" how prevalent something like domestic violence is. But not this time.

Although we may be both inundated and infatuated with numbers (are we up to 5G yet?), numbers don't do this tragic topic or others related to our broken relationships with God, creation or each other, justice.

In fact, in many cases numbers dehumanize reality. Let's use simple math for one quick illustration.

Last month the number of deaths in our now 11-year-long new "forgotten war" in Afghanistan reached 2,000. The 2010 Census indicated there were some 21,586,000 men and women in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 24. That means about .009 percent of military-aged men and women have died fighting our enemies there during the past 11 years.

But for the kids whose dad won't be around to watch them grow up, that number doesn't mean a thing. I spent six months at the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., in 2010 - for those families whose grief was only a few days or even hours old as they watched their loved ones carried onto American soil in as dignified a transfer as possible, that number didn't mean a thing.

For the families of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, who haven't recently celebrated happy reunions with their loved ones, those "simple numbers" are truly meaningless.

So you're not getting domestic violence numbers from me.

If you don't already have a sense of how prevalent this particular tragedy is, you can look them up yourself. What you are getting from me instead is a call to action.

What you are getting from me as a chaplain is a challenge to put your faith into action.
And if you're not sure what to do, here are some ideas to get you started, regardless of your part in the matter. But first...

For anyone who either thinks or doubts they have been touched by domestic violence, the first step is understanding what forms of abuse can be involved.

Domestic abuse is behavior that intimidates or controls the abused spouse or partner.
It can range from constant put-downs and ridicule to controlling behaviors or uncontrollable jealousy.

It includes things like intimidating gestures, controlling of family income, treating a family member like a slave, rape, shoving, beating or other physical abuse, even threatening to take away children. Abusive behavior can also include denial - minimizing and blaming the abused spouse or partner for the actions of the abuser.

1. If you are the one being abused, seek help - now. The Anchorage-area Abused Women's Aid in Crisis has a 24-hour hotline at 272-0100. Yes, your safety and that of your children should be your immediate concern, but you can and should still seek help.
And yes, I know that even taking that first step - asking for help - is very much easier said than done, in fact, it is often times the scariest thing one can imagine.

It can be especially difficult for a woman to leave her abuser. Economic factors, fear of retribution to herself and her children, physical exhaustion and psychological trauma all contribute to the reasons why women often stay with an abusive partner, sometimes despite the best efforts of caring friends or family.

2. If you are a family member or friend suspecting domestic violence, do anything but nothing. At the very least, start by learning what you can do, as quickly as possible.
Here's just one of many resources to get you started - even to encourage you to appropriately become involved.

The title of this book says it all: "Family and Friends' Guide to Domestic Violence - How to Listen, Talk and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused," by Elaine Weiss.

3. Finally, if you are the abuser, seek help - now. Yes, your military career may be at stake, but much more so if you don't stop. "Self-identify" - if you claim to be a man (or woman) of faith first to your God, then, to a trusted friend or confidant, or to one of your chaplains.

If even that seems a step too far, at the very least look honestly in the mirror and then do something now about your abusing actions.

Although sooner or later you will likely need someone's help to make such a difficult life change "stick," you can start on your own with even a small step such as this - find a resource like the workbook I've had for a number of years: "Learning to Live Without Violence," by Daniel Jay Sonkin and Michael Durphy.

Yes, I get the paradox of Soldiers and Airmen who are trained in violence somehow "learning to live" without it.

Perhaps the subtitle helps to clarify matters: By using this workbook, abusers will start to examine their lives, realize that they can control their abusive behavior, and take the first steps.

October is domestic violence awareness month. Make it your "do something about domestic violence" month.

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