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41 Association of the United States Navy HEALTH TALK repercussions for children. Over 50 percent of men who abuse their wives also beat their children. Chil- dren who grow up in violent homes are more likely to develop alcohol and drug addictions and to become abusers themselves. e stage is set for a cycle of violence that may continue from generation to gener- ation. Yet, domestic violence remains shrouded in silence. People outside the family hesitate to interfere even when they suspect abuse is occurring, many times, out of loyalty to the abuser. Abuse and assault within a family are no less likely to end in tragedy. You only have to pick up a local newspaper to read about the loss of lives due to domestic violence. Even when domestic violence is reported, there can be tragic failures to protect victims adequately or to punish perpetrators. Domestic violence is learned behavior. Men who are abusive believe they have a right to use violence; they have a right to use power and control in their inti- mate relationships. Abusive men come from all socio- economic classes, races, religions and occupations. e abuser may be a "good provider" and a respected member at his work, in his church and community. While there is no one type, men who abuse share some common characteristics. ey tend to be extremely possessive and easily angered. A man may fly into a rage because his spouse calls her family or friends too oen. Or because she didn't iron his shirt the way he wants it to be done. Many try to isolate their partners by limiting their contact with family and friends. Abusive men oen blame their abusive behavior on someone or something other than themselves. ey deny the abuse is happening or minimize it. Oen abusive men view women as inferior. eir conver- sation and language reveal their attitude toward a woman's place in society. Alcohol and drugs may be associated with domestic violence, but they don't cause it. ey are two separate problems that must be treated. So why do women stay with their abuser? Fear. Some fear they will lose their children or that they will not be able to provide for themselves, let alone care for their children. When the violence first starts, many women believe their abuser when he apologizes and promises it will never happen again. But then it does. e women are told they are at fault and if they acted differently the abuse would stop. ey are ashamed to admit that the abuse is occurring. Some women may not view the criminal justice system as a source of help. Immigrant women oen lack familiarity with the language and legal systems of this country and may be threatened with deportation by their abuser. Women living in rural areas or in areas where public trans- portation may be inaccessible may have few resources available to them. Isolation imposed by lack of trans- portation and lack of financial resources oen makes it difficult for women to access information about domestic violence and assistance. Ultimately, abused women must make their own decisions about staying or leaving. Some abused women run the risk of being killed when they leave their abuser or seek help from the legal system. If a woman decides to leave, she needs a safety plan, including the names and phone numbers of shel- ters and programs. e National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free and confidential 24-hour resource for those in an abusive relationship or family or friends who care about their health and safety. Hotline services include: crisis intervention, safety planning, information about domestic violence and referrals to local service providers, direct connection to domestic violence resources available in the caller's area provided by a hotline advocate, including local military Family Advocacy Programs and domestic abuse advocates, and assistance in more than 140 different languages. e toll-free hotline is available 24 hours a day and can be reached from anywhere in the 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Call 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 TTY for the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing, or visit If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911. I know it can be difficult to take action and reach out for help regarding a partner's controlling or abusive behavior. Remember, speaking to someone about prob- lems in your relationship doesn't require you to make any immediate or significant decisions. It is a small step toward a better tomorrow, where you have the opportu- nity to feel safe and fulfilled, either in your relationship or outside of it. Kathryn M. Serbin, DNP, MS, BSN, CCM, is a retired captain who served in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.

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