AWAC explains the trends of domestic violence

A call came through on the crisis line from a frantic woman on St. Paul Island.

"I need someone to come get me right away," she said.  "If I stay I'll be killed.”

Before her partner left for work that day he told her he was fed up. He said, “I'm shooting you when I get home from work at 5:30 tonight," and he left his gun out.

This is just one of many horrific stories Abused Women's Aid in Crisis worker Lori Ann Costello has heard from battered women.

"We called Alaska Airlines and asked if they had a flight out there that day," Costello said about the St. Paul incident.  "Luckily they did and we were able to get the woman off the island."

AWAIC sponsored and Costello presented the Dynamics of Domestic Violence workshop at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Oct. 31 to discuss the trends of abusive relationships and give advice for safety plans.

Abuse usually starts on a small scale. The perpetrator may begin by hurting pets. That should set off a red flag Costello says. If a person will kick a dog, the abuser will probably move onto people.  And she says if the perpetrator gets away with it, abuse will become more severe and frequent.

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"Battering is a very calculated and conscious choice," Costello said.

It's not because of something the victim did or because the victim made the abuser mad, she says. 

Costello gave this example in the workshop: “He's pissed at his boss.  But he can't hit his boss.  He wants to hit his coworker or the bank teller who closed when he arrived at the bank. Instead he hits you because he can get away with it.”

It's about control and getting the victim isolated Costello says. The abuser wants the victim at the point where the victim's friends and family are no longer communicating.  Then the victim is stuck.

The abuser starts out subtle, with statements like, "Your mom doesn't like me.  She's creating a wedge between us.  You're a grown up, do you have to talk to her once a week?" 

Making negative comments about the victim's friends can make it so the victim won't go out with them. 

Batterers can be respected leaders in the community. They can appear charming and that is how potential victims get involved in the first place.

"At first they wine and dine you," Costello said.  "They don't tell you to shut up on the first date because then you'd never go on a second."

Once in an isolated relationship batterers go for what Costello calls, "the bathing suit area," from the crotch to the neck.  It's an area that's always covered; no one will see the bruises. They tend to kick pregnant women in the belly if they accuse her of having an affair.

Costello says women don't stay with batterers because they like being hit. Usually they have no job or assets in their name and are economically dependent on their partner.  They may also stay for religious reasons.

"Some religions call our shelter the Antichrist," Costello said.  "They say we're breaking up families."

Sometimes breaking up with an abusive partner may lead to increased danger. Costello says women have a 75 percent higher chance of being killed after a break up.  When they walk away the man feels he is losing control. 

Costello says women should have a safety plan.  She asks: Do you have any money?  Do you have a friend who could hide you or a relative in another state? 

If you need help, you can call the AWAIC crisis line 24 hours a day at 272-0100. For more information about domestic violence, call 279-9581 or visit