Domestic Abusers Can Learn Prevention Strategies To Stop Behavior

by Dr. Ari Novick – April 22, 2014

Although there has been a huge groundswell in this country to address domestic violence, it is still a significant problem. Perpetrators of domestic violence come from all walks of life from the very wealthy, educated and famous to those with high school diplomas living at poverty level. In fact, today NBC Sports reported that Keyshawn Johnson, the former NY Jets wide receiver and current ESPN analyst, was arrested early this morning for misdemeanor domestic battery after grabbing his ex-girlfriends cell phone and injuring her hand. Other high profile individuals accused of domestic abuse over the years include Ike Turner, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Chris Brown, and Daryl Strawberry.

It can happen to anyone, both male and female, young and old, so it’s important for everyone to be aware of. Some famous victims include Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Madonna, and even President Bill Clinton. If you, your teenager or grandmother is in a relationship in which an intimate partner is physically or mentally controlling, it’s time to get help. Studies show that often victims don’t leave the relationship because the offender promises “it will never happen again” or they hope things will change. Actually, it’s not a completely unsolvable problem, but the perpetrator has to be at a point where he or she is ready to take responsibility for their actions and learn new skills to make a change.

In many domestic abuse situations, the offender has come from a long history of family violence. Parents or grandparents have role modeled this behavior as acceptable and through the child’s development into adulthood this is all they’ve known. In fact, a person’s close social circle of family members, friends, and neighborhoods has the greatest influence on the risk factors for this type of behavior.

The solution is to break the cycle of abuse by using prevention strategies taught in such places as anger management classes, supportive peer mentoring programs, church groups or during individual therapy. Online Batterers Intervention Classes are also available for people who like to learn at their own pace and on their own. These type of programs can be taken in the privacy of one’s home so it doesn’t have become a public issue, the individual doesn’t have to miss any work, and doesn’t have to drive to another county to find a decent class.

If you are not quite sure if you would fall under this definition, ask yourself some of these questions. Would you treat your friends, boss or mother the same way you’ve been treating your spouse? Have you had trouble keeping long-term relationships due to your controlling or abusive behavior? Would you want another man or woman treating your teenager the way you treat your spouse? Has your partner expressed unhappiness because you are being unreasonable? Take a look at your answers. If you recognize your unhealthy behavior, you can address the abuse by understanding your triggers, taking a look at your drug and alcohol intake, improving your level of empathy and learning new anger and stress management skills.

Basic Characteristics of a Perpetrator of Domestic Violence

by Dr. Ari Novick – April 15, 2014

Domestic violence or Batterers Intervention Programs are generally court ordered for individuals convicted of domestic abuse. The term “domestic violence” is used to describe a relationship in which there is a pattern of controlling and coercive behavior that leaves the victim unsafe, insecure and dependent on the abuser. This might include physical abuse as well as emotionally threatening and verbal abuse, isolating the victim and/or controlling finances. The behavior can be perpetrated upon a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend or even towards an older family member in the person’s care.

Studies show that offenders come from all over the world, all races and religions, educational levels and socio-economic brackets. However, domestic abusers generally exhibit the same basic characteristics. These include:

1. They want to achieve total power and control over the relationship.

2. They often present dual personalities. It’s the old Jekyll and Hyde. People outside of the relationship are often not aware that there’s a problem because in public the abuser maintains a loving and normal demeanor. This can make it really difficult for the victim to get help because their story doesn’t seem plausible.

3. They play the blame game. The abuser avoids taking any responsibility for his or her actions by putting the burden on the victim or situation. They say that it’s the stress of the relationship, or they had too much drink and can’t remember what they did. Or, they tell the victim that if he or she would change or stop provoking the abuser, then it wouldn’t happen. This leaves the victim constantly fearful and walking on eggshells.

4. They minimize and deny their destructive behavior. They come up with excuses for controlling all the funds or viewing their email. The abuser tries to justify his or her behavior as normal and make the victim feel like they are overreacting.

It’s a vicious cycle that repeats itself throughout the relationship. It starts with some sort of tension that causes an argument. This is followed by an act of violence or an increase in controlling behavior. If the abuser does acknowledge his bad behavior, he often will beg for forgiveness and promise to never do it again. This leads to a honeymoon period in which the couple feels close again and things feel calm. Unfortunately, if the abuser doesn’t do anything to learn how to change his or her ways, the cycle continues and often escalates.

If you see yourself in this type of relationship, it’s imperative to get help immediately. As a victim, reach out to friends for support. Its true that people want to help but are often afraid of meddling in your personal affairs, or causing you more trouble. Look into local shelters and get advice from social workers in your community. Also, do small things like getting an extra set of keys to the car and house in case he/she tries to take these things from you.

If you see yourself as the abuser, the good news is that there are effective dv programs in place to help motivated people change their ways. Look into local Batterers Intervention Programs, get one on one counseling, join an anger management group or take an online domestic violence class. You can learn how to break the cycle and start on a healthier, safer and happier path.

New Ruling From Supreme Court Says No Guns For Those Convicted of Misdemeanor Domestic Abuse

by Dr. Ari Novick – March 31, 2014

Did you know that Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm? With this in mind, the U.S. Supreme court agreed in a unanimous ruling this past week, that makes it a crime for individuals convicted of domestic violence to have a gun. They concluded that the term “domestic violence” doesn’t just have to mean a violent physical assault, but can include things like pushing, slapping and grabbing. The justices concluded that minor uses of force like these could over time build up and contribute to one partner becoming subject to another’s control. The presence of a firearm increases the chances that when someone is violent, he or she might resort to homicide. In fact, statistics show that there is a 270% increase in likelihood that a woman will be murdered if a gun is present in the home. Specifically, between the years of 1980 and 2008 firearms killed more than 2/3 of divorced spouse homicide victims.

This federal ban strengthened the law by overturning decisions in parts of the country that said the gun ban only applied to convictions that involved “violent use of force”. Now it includes anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. The ultimate goal is to keep guns out of the hands of abusers for the safety of their intimate partners, children and families.

This ruling takes into consideration that there are signs of an abusive relationship that may not be physically violent, but could ultimately lead to disaster. Some of the signs to look for include:

1. Your intimate partner controls everything.

2. He/she yells at you and calls you names.

3. Your partner shoves, pinches, slaps or stalks you.

4. He/she threatens to hurt you, your family, the children or pets if you don’t do what he/she wants.

5. Substance abuse, unemployment, and/or depression.

An escalation of this type of non-violent domestic abuse is typical before the controlling partner snaps. The victim grows increasingly afraid, but doesn’t get out of the situation due to fear, financial instability, embarrassment or lack of a support network. Often times, the victim has been told that if she ever leaves, the abuser will kill her.

An abusive relationship is a serious matter. If you or someone you know is at risk, get help before it’s too late. Once the call to 911 is made, the police can’t ignore the situation but almost always must make an arrest. This will be followed up with some amount of jail time, fines, court mandated batterers intervention classes and a temporary restraining order. And, as previously discussed, the loss of the right to possess a gun. If you are an offender and a member of the military you might lose your career and military benefits. Future employers will see the offense on your record, which could affect hiring. It’s just a downward spiral for everyone involved.

Abusers can learn to break the cycle by getting one-on-one therapy, entering anger management classes or by taking a Batterers Intervention Program or Domestic Violence classes online. It is not a life sentence, but a behavior that can be overcome by utilizing various stress and anger management techniques. Take the challenge today to make a positive change and create a better future for yourself and loved ones.

Talk To Your Teen About Their Unsafe or Unhealthy Dating Relationship

by Dr. Ari Novick – March 14, 2014

Domestic violence doesn’t just occur between married couples. It’s the behavior in an intimate relationship when there is a pattern of one partner using power to control another. Sadly, statistics show that about 1/3 of American women will experience this abuse during their lifetime in either a dating or marriage situation. Anyone can experience an unhealthy relationship, regardless of age, gender, economic status or ethnicity. However, girls between the ages of 16-24 tend to experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. You can recognize if you are the perpetrator of dating violence or a victim of it, if you have committed or been on the receiving end of behavior like:

  • Physical violence: hitting, slapping, kicking, shaking, choking or throwing
  • Sexual violence: forced sexual activity, pressure to have sex, or verbal threats of violence if you don’t do what he/she wants
  • Emotional abuse: intimidation, humiliation, spreading rumors, name calling or bullying, jealousy, possessiveness, false accusations, stalking, monitoring email and/or texts and isolation

People who abuse their girlfriends or boyfriends generally due so because they believe that they are right and know what’s best. The person might want to look “popular” by showing off how he/she controls the relationship. Abusive behavior usually begins between the ages of 12 – 18 and is often either learned by role models at home, from friends or from the culture around them. Many abusers don’t see that they are doing anything wrong, until it is too late.

Teens who end up in abusive relationships explain that they never realized that this could happen to them, didn’t understand what to expect from a healthy relationship or didn’t know how to get out of the situation. Of course, the relationship didn’t begin with intimidation, but with love and affection. They just didn’t see the change coming. It’s therefore important to educate our kids before they start dating about what to look for in a sound and safe partnership. Some basics include:

  • You are open and honest with each other
  • Your boyfriend/girlfriend respects who you are and isn’t trying to change you
  • Your partner gives you the freedom you need and expect
  • You and your partner are supportive and encourage each other to reach your goals

The abused partner should never feel like he/she has to stay in the relationship. If scared or unhappy, or feeling trapped, seek help. If your intimate partner doesn’t treat you well now, it’s not going to get better and can escalate to physical violence. For those looking to get out of an unsafe relationship, start with avoiding isolation. Develop your support network and talk to others so you have somewhere to turn. Focus on taking care of yourself whether this means finishing up school or getting a better job so you can support yourself. Find a safe place to live once you have committed to the break up. If you are still living at home, tell your parents about any fear of reprisal you might have. Most importantly, contact the authorities if you seriously fear for your safety.

Indicators of Economic Abuse

by Dr. Ari Novick – January 31, 2014

When we think of domestic violence, physical abuse generally comes to mind. The offender is looking for control and dominates the victim by hitting, punching, slapping or throwing them around. It’s a serious national problem, and in Minnesota in 2013 alone, 37 people were killed in domestic violence related homicides. In most situations in which there is domestic abuse, the intimate partner is too afraid to tell anyone because of the repercussions they will endure from the abuser. An example of this can be seen in one of these particular cases, the victim had finally gotten the strength to move out and was shot and killed by her boyfriend while the moving van was in front of her home. One of the most reliable indicators that someone is in serious risk of being harmed is if the abuser has threatened them. The truth is that about 30% of women murdered in the country, are killed by intimate partners. If you have a friend, or notice a co-worker who has been missing a lot of work or shows up with injuries, you can save a life by not overlooking the severity of the issue. The individual might be reluctant to talk, but let them know you are available for any support they might need.

Another type of domestic abuse that is a bit subtler is economic abuse. In some situations, you may not be able to see signs of violence on the person’s body but they are being emotionally abused by a spouse or intimate partner in the form of economic restraints. This includes controlling all the money, keeping the victim from gaining access to funds when necessary, not allowing the victim to get a job or become financially self-sufficient, or identity theft.

Economic abuse can have lifelong consequences. The situation can prevent a victim from getting the proper education they need to get a job. The individual lacks the resources to learn how to handle money and can become susceptible to scams out of desperation for financial aid. In some situations, the victim takes out credit cards and incurs debt therefore damaging their credit and making them unable to get out of the abusive relationship.

Some indicators that someone is being economically abused are:

  • An individual who has to depend 100% on his/her intimate partner for financial assistance.
  • An individual who isn’t allowed to get a job or go to school.
  • An individual who has justify every dime spent and is punished for response.
  • An individual who is forbidden to have his or her own bank account.
  • An individual who is constantly harassed by the abuser with frequent phone calls or unexpected visits at the workplace, which might hinder their job performance.
  • An individual who has good credit that is damaged by an intimate partner’s misuse of funds.

The bottom line is that emotional and economic abuse is just as serious as being physically injured. If the survivor is left afraid, insecure and lacking self-esteem, it’s time to get out of the relationship. If you know someone or see yourself in one of these scenarios, seek help now.

Improving Empathy Skills Help DV Offenders Stop Violent Behavior

by Dr. Ari Novick – January 24, 2014

Over the past 30 years, the significant problem of domestic abuse has slowly come out of the closet in the U.S. and has emerged as one of our most serious social problems. Women’s advocate groups, mental health professionals and government officials have responded by implementing dv offender laws and by developing batterers intervention programs. The results of years of research shows that jail time is just not enough. Offenders must learn how to change their ways through informative and educational treatment programs.

Most perpetrators of domestic violence are people who grew up with role models that displayed this behavior. They often avoid taking responsibility or ignore their actions by minimizing it. They consider their actions like verbal abuse, or disallowing contact with friends and family, or checking their partner’s email or voice mail messages or physical punishment as not that serious or frequent to worry about. “It only happens every few months, not a big deal.” Another tactic is to completely deny it ever happened which leads the victim to begin to think that she is actually the crazy one. “You must have given yourself a black eye when you tripped. I didn’t touch you!” Or if the offender can manage to admit to the behavior, they blame it on their partner. “She lied to me once, so now I have to listen to all her phone messages to make sure she’s telling me the truth.” This controlling behavior slowly breaks down the self-confidence of the victim and leaves them co-dependent, stressed and anxious.

A common denominator in all domestic violence situations is a lack of empathy in the offender. We have seen it throughout our history from slave owners, to the Nazi party, to todays playground and cyber bullies. These people are generally not able to feel the impact that their actions are having on others. The just don’t realize or understand how they are inflicting pain. When levels of empathy increase, individuals are less likely to get involved in bullying and aggressive situations.

BIP or domestic violence classes work towards improving the offender’s self-awareness and to learn the skills necessary to experience things from another person’s point of view, or empathy. The first step is to get the abuser to acknowledge his abusive behavior. Once he has accepted the need to change, classes teach how to recognize what triggers his anger towards his partner and techniques to redirect or stop the build-up of hostility. Offenders learn that domestic violence includes more than just physical contact, but emotional as well and new skills in stress management, empathy, listening and communication are taught to help control aggressive behavior.

The goal of sending dv offenders to a class is to break the cycle so that even if they can’t stay with their current intimate partners, this lifestyle will not continue to perpetuate in future relationships. In some situations, taking a class can also help to clear their public record for future employment opportunities. Following through on a dv education class can be a learning experience that changes lives in a positive direction forever.

Is Your Friend Or Family Member Being Abused?

by Dr. Ari Novick – January 17, 2014

Discussions about domestic violence are never easy. The truth is that as a friend, family member or co-worker, you are the one’s who will notice first if something is amiss with someone you are in close contact with. Most often, victims are afraid to seek support because of the repercussions they might endure as a result of outing the offender, or embarrassment. While you might hesitate to bring it up because you feel like it’s not your business or a huge responsibility, keep in mind that you could be saving a life!

There are many different types of domestic abuse. The obvious one most easily observed is the physical ramification of violent behavior like bruising, black eyes, broken bones and scars. However, there are more subtle signs that you might pick up on if the person is being mentally or financially controlled.

The general warnings that something is not right and it’s possibly a domestic abuse situation are:

1. Frequent injuries and unexpectedly missing work.

2. The individual can’t participate in social functions because they are restricted or isolated by the abuser.

3. When they are with the abuser they seem afraid or overly anxious to please him.

4. They have lost their voice in the relationship and go along with whatever the partner dictates.

5. They receive frequent phone calls, text messages or emails throughout the day that are checking up on them. The individual is rattled or nervous about it.

6. They express that they don’t have access to funds.

7. They become withdrawn, depressed, and anxious or lose confidence in themselves (especially if they used to have strong self-esteem).

If you suspect there is a problem, don’t wait for the person to open up about it. Go to the individual in private and express your concerns about her safety without placing any blame on the victim. Offer to help and support her decisions without judging her. It will most likely take broaching the subject a few times before she opens up.

On the flip side, you may be close with someone you feel has abusive tendencies. You notice that your brother is constantly putting down his wife in front of you or he won’t ever let her join a night out without him. This same expression of your concern and offer of support can help save a relationship and/or life. It’s not easy for an abuser to stop the behavior and they may not even realize how intense it’s become. He’s fallen into a pattern of behavior that is comfortable to him, but not those around him and needs a reality check. The light at the end of the tunnel is that with a serious commitment to make change, an offender can learn how to create healthier relationships. It requires time and the choice to learn new skills to change the controlling and manipulative behavior that they most likely learned from role models in their youth. Domestic violence treatment programs are available to attend either in-person or take at home online. The goal is to teach abusers how to break the cycle of their negative actions by learning empathy, effective communication and listening skills, alternate ways to cope with their anger and how to deal with stress.

Don’t ignore the signs of an abusive relationship. You could be the one to save a life!

Keep A Watchful Eye On Your Teen's Intimate Relationships

by Dr. Ari Novick – January 10, 2014

It’s a topic that we don’t like to consider, but as our adolescents turn into teenagers, they will most likely start dating and get involved in intimate relationships. Parents and caregivers are often unaware that unsafe relationships can start as early as the teen years! Just like adults, teens can also get involved in unhealthy relationships that involve physical or emotional violence as well as stalking. According to the CDC’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey about 9.4% of high school students reported being slapped, hit or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the prior year. Many times teenagers will go along with the behavior because they are needy for attention (any kind), want to fit in with their friends who are also in relationships, it’s their first relationship and they don’t know any different, or they are scared to try to get out of it. In many cases, they will be reluctant to tell their parents because they don’t want to get in trouble or get their boyfriend/girlfriend in trouble.

It’s important that we watch closely for the telltale signs of an abusive relationship and talk to our kids about it so they are aware as well. Some of these patterns include:

1. He/she is overly possessive. They try to isolate you from friends and have you all to themselves.

2. He/she constantly belittles or puts you down. This creates a relationship in which one member is dominant and the other loses self-esteem. For example, he tells you that no one else would possibly go out with you.

3. He/she physically pushes, shoves, or assaults you in any way. This includes sexual harassment.

4. He/she is extremely jealous about you talking to any other boys or girls. You feel guilty hanging out or talking with anyone of the opposite sex.

5. He/she checks your phone, social media sites or email without your permission or is constantly texting and calling you when you aren’t together and finds out your schedule so he can show up where you are planning on going.

6. He/she has extreme mood swings. One minute he is sweet but the next he can turn extremely angry over the smallest thing.

It can be difficult for parents to get involved because you don’t want to be overprotective or embarrassing to your child. Or, you might even notice that it’s your child exhibiting abusive behavior. However, passively watching the situation could very well lead to danger. Parents should get the authorities involved if there are signs of serious imminent danger. In the meantime, some tips for parents to begin the conversation with your teenager include:

1. Maintain a non-judgmental attitude and stay calm.

2. Listen closely to what they say and acknowledge their feelings

3. Talk about what a healthy relationship looks like and how the relationship they are in compares.

4. Help them find solutions for getting out of the relationship gracefully so it doesn’t cause more embarrassment or unintended grief.

5. Assure your child that they haven’t done anything wrong and are not to blame. Let them know you are there to help them to safety.

A healthy relationship is one in which your teenager can express his/her feelings without feeling afraid or embarrassed. It should be a mutually supportive experience so that each person can reach his/her own goals, have his/her own opinions and have their own friends without any mistrust. Most of all, your young adult should feel safe and loved. When this ends, so should the relationship.

New Domestic Violence Laws Will Impact California Residents in 2014

by Dr. Ari Novick – December 26, 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law some new protections for domestic violence victims that will take effect as of January 1, 2014. The first one helps renters to quickly get out of their lease if they are concerned about an offender finding them, harassing or stalking them. In the past, a victim might move away to an obscure place to get away from the offender and “hide” because they were afraid of any repercussions after the he got out of jail. However, in some cases the offender would track the victim down and find her anyway. If the victim had signed a lease, they were stuck to either pay it off or wait it out, hoping for the best and living in fear.

Last summer, the ex-wife of a client of ours called us because she was helping her ex-spouse to find a court ordered 52-week domestic violence class after he had spent time in jail for physically assaulting her. She had moved away but was in contact with him via email and phone. She thought she had found an obscure place to live so that he’d never be able to find her, but was trying to stay on the best possible terms with him. One day her neighbor told her that while she was at work, a man had been lurking around the front of her porch area that faced out on the street and looking at her front door. When I spoke with her she was worried about her safety and stressed because she had signed a lease and couldn’t move for another 5 months. Thankfully now, with this new law, all she would have to do is show the landlord some sort of proof that she’s been abused and the landlord would have to let her get out of the lease to move away for her own well being without any monetary repercussions.

Another law that goes into effect, SB 400, extends the current California Labor Code section 230. Currently, the law says that employers with 25 or more employees can’t threaten to discharge, discriminate against or retaliate against employees that are domestic violence or sexual assault victims. They must be allowed to take time off from work to see doctors, social services or go to court hearings related to the incident. The new law extends this same protection to victims of stalking as well (like the woman noted above).

The definition of stalking covers behavior that includes purposely following, harassing or making threats with the intent of making the victim fearful for his/her safety or that of her immediate family. SB 400 suggests that employers do their best to provide a safe work environment by transferring or changing the employees work schedule, changing the employees phone number and/or location within the building, installing new locks if applicable, and helping the person to find victim assistance outside of the company. Basically, the company must get involved to do their best to make the workplace a safe environment for that employee.

Both of these new laws are part of the state’s fight to combat domestic abuse. Once a domestic abuse situation is reported to the authorities, they are required to complete a report and make an arrest if there is visible injury. If convicted, a DV offender in California can expect some or all of the following punishments: jail time, fines, mandatory batterers intervention counseling, alcohol education classes, restraining orders and termination or suspension of child custody or visitation. For help in this arena, online domestic violence classes, group in-person classes and one/one therapy are available to the offender to stop the behavior before it comes to all this, or for court orders.

What To Expect After DV Arrest

by Dr. Ari Novick – December 18, 2013

In many domestic violence situations, the victim doesn’t want to report his or her spouse because she is afraid of the repercussions. She is scared of reprisal or financially unstable and can’t afford to get away. Sometimes victims don’t know where to turn because they don’t want close friends to find out or can’t face possible loss of employment. And of course, there’s the ongoing hope that the behavior will change and things will work out. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, we know it’s not easy to make the call, but it’s necessary to help end the abuse. If you are a perpetrator or victim and are wondering what to expect once it’s reported, here’s a quick synopsis.

The exact laws vary a bit from state to state, but in general, if you, a neighbor or friend report the abuse to the authorities, law enforcement must make an arrest if there is any type of probable cause. It’s no laughing matter in the eyes of the court; therefore many jurisdictions have zero tolerance policies. In most cases, once the defendant is charged for domestic violence, the victim cannot stop the process by saying they no longer want to press charges. There are many reasons for this including the fact that the state believes that the abuse will get progressively worse and that the victim might be under pressure to drop the charges by the defendant. So when an individual is charged with domestic assault, the charge now is coming from the state, not the victim.

In some states prohibited acts include physical violence and also threat of physical violence. This means that the aggressor states that he will hurt you without actually following through with it. Additional charges are added in some states like Utah if a child is present to witness the domestic violence. Aggravated stalking – following someone around, checking their mail, listening to voice mail, reading email, etc. can also be considered an offense that falls under a domestic violence crime.

The first court appearance will be a hearing in front of the judge, which generally occurs within the next couple of days. The judge will decide if a protective order should be set, look at the defendant’s criminal background, have guns surrendered, consider the seriousness of the allegations and order at least a 48 hour no contact period with the victim. The next hearing will be a status hearing at which the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. If pleading not guilty, an attorney will be necessary to present your case with witnesses and facts as to your innocence. If pleading guilty, then based on the severity of the case, the judge will administer fines, community service, jail time or possible home detention, and/or court ordered treatment programs.

Domestic violence treatment programs are required to help the offender learn how to break the cycle of violence. The required program lengths vary from state to state but can range from a minimum of 24 sessions in Florida to 52 sessions in California. Programs focus on teaching clients how to better manage stress, peacefully resolve conflict and improve communication skills. Participants take a look at their past history, what triggers their aggression and how to gain a new awareness of how their actions effects others. The goal is to learn self-control to redirect behavior in a more positive way.

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