By Lisa Brown
Every October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month is observed with the hopes of bringing awareness to the very important and sensitive subject. Local professionals and agencies use this time for outreach, community engagement and education.
Prior to moving to Wake Forest, Dr. Pamela Perkins, a psychologist with Perkins Counseling and Psychological Services, was a Certified Domestic Violence Professional in Illinois, and she has worked for five years educating clients about domestic violence.
“People don’t always understand what DV is and what it looks like,” she says.
While the nightly news is filled with stories of beatings, shootings and murders that are the result of domestic issues, Perkins emphasizes that 90 percent of domestic violence is actually emotional and verbal abuse that can be equally debilitating and harmful.
Perkins identifies domestic violence as “a pattern of purposeful assaultive or coercive behavior that is used to maintain power and control in a relationship.”
It is also a choice, and abusive people choose to direct the abuse toward those they feel entitled to control. Most often, the targets are their partners, children or other family members. Thus, this abusive behavior is not an “anger management” problem because the abuser is able to regulate the behavior. Otherwise, everyone in the abuser’s life would be at risk. Often to the outside world, the abuser is charming and personable and seems the least likely to behave in such a way.
There are early warning signs that can help identify an abuser and stop the cycle before it gets out of control. Growing up in an abusive household or using violence to solve problems or release tension are examples of what can signal a problem. Domestic violence often starts when a woman becomes pregnant, and murder is the leading cause of death in pregnant women, a statistic startling to most.
“I don’t normally recommend marriage counseling in these situations because it can increase the lethality,” Perkins says.
It is best, then, if both parties can get counseling separately because what is said in a session can be used against the victim. However, she explains, most often the abused person is the one who seeks help, and typically the abuser has difficulty facing and accepting responsibility for the abusive actions.
“It’s important to find someone to talk to since abuse feeds off secrecy,” Perkins says.
From a legal perspective, obtaining a restraining order is the first and best way to get help. Raleigh police officer Dave Mead stresses that not only are the police the first responders but also “they are the gateway and direct link to many of the independent programs that are eager to help anyone in that situation.”
Domestic violence agencies not only can provide guidance and emotional support but also can accompany clients to court to support them in a place that can be intimidating and overwhelming. Locally, Safe Space in Louisburg offers victims court advocacy, shelter, telephone support, referrals and training. The organization also runs a thrift shop, The Variety Shop. Funds raised are used to support DV services and provide the single largest source of discretionary funds for Safe Space and its services. The Variety Shop also allows its clients a place to shop for items at no cost using a voucher program.
Among other local thrift shops, The Purple Shoe Thrift Shoppe and The Purple Cottage, both in Zebulon, offer consumers places to “Shop to Stop Domestic Violence.” Interact in Raleigh is another resource for victims of domestic violence to find the help they need. Much like Safe Space, Interact offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, court advocacy, shelter and child services. Interact also runs two thrift stores, Pass It On and Pass It On, Too in Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh.
As in any emergency, preparedness is very important.
“I recommend that anyone in a volatile and abusive relationship have a plan,” Perkins says.
Having a packed bag kept in a car, keeping spare clothes in the bottom of a laundry basket or having a neighbor willing to take you in are all good ideas for being prepared.
Education is crucial not just for those in dangerous relationships but for first responders as well. Perkins continues her work in Wake Forest assisting clients, and she says she also will be speaking with Wake Forest Chief of Police Jeff Leonard about educating the department regarding domestic violence and the importance of a well-trained police department.
“Abuse is very isolating,” Perkins says. “Patterns can be changed, but it’s difficult and takes a lot of work.”
Officer Mead stresses that victims should know they are never alone.
“The programs are there, the counseling is there, your local law enforcement agency is there 24/7. Involve your family and close friends,” he says. “The personal support will be overwhelming.”
For more information on domestic violence:
Perkins Counseling and Psychological Services 919-263-9592, http://perkinscps.com/home
Safe Space 919-497-5444, www.ncsafespace.org
Interact of Wake County 919-828-7740, www.interactofwake.org/services
NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence 919-956-9124, www.nccadv.org