By Dariana Alicea
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of sex, age or gender, the scars are always hard to erase and not necessarily because of physical abuse, but psychological too. According to Melinda Smith, M.A., noticing and acknowledging the warning signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse is the first step to ending it.
To look at his kitchen is enough for Michael O’neill to remember his father, but not in a good way – the way he used to hit his mom every night, in front of him, after getting drunk.
“When I was about 6 years old, I witnessed the first time, or at least I thought it was the first time, my father hit my mother.” Michael O’neill said.
On Tuesday November 22nd, 2011 at the “Tree of Life” in the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (UPRM), some people from the program to prevent violence against women, gathered to commemorate those that have been killed because of domestic violence over the last year.
“Almost 30 cases have been filed this year and there are some that have not been filed yet” said Prof. María del Pilar, Director of the program to prevent violence against women in UPRM. This was said in tears because one of the cases was a close friend of hers, even part of the program.
Now, one may ask: What is the purpose of domestic violence? One word, control, the purpose is to control the person that they are with or the person they are abusing of.
According to Melinda Smith, M.A., domestic violence does not discriminate, it happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. Even though women are the common target, men are also victims, but most of the time in the emotional part, but physical abuse occurs to them as well.
There are many ways to know if one’s partner is a possible aggressor. One of common ways to know is if that person constantly watches over the partner or asks friends to do so and tries to control what that person does and who that person talks to. Also they the way that person dresses and even control the money that person uses. (Woman, is your partner a possible aggressor?, 2011)
Another symptom is jealousy, that person gets angry if he/she sees their partner talking to someone of the opposite sex (or same-sex in case of homosexual relationships) and even prohibits the partner to do so. According to Woman, is your partner a possible aggressor?, that person may also expect the partner to spend all of his/her time with him/her and express to that person “I cannot live without you” or “If you’re not mine, you’re not anyone’s ”.
Michael O’neill said that his father was not possessive of his mother; that his problem was due to the abuse of alcohol every day. “There was never a day in my life I did not see my father drunk” he said.
Ninety-two percent of the domestic abuse assailants prosecuted use of alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault, according to a recent report in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
There are a number of factors that help predict domestic violence, such as having witnessed abuse as a child, mental illness as alcoholism, drug abuse or neurological problems and depression for not succeeding in life.
If one’s partner forces undesired actions or seems at times very affectionate and other times hostile, then it might be a case of domestic violence towards sexual and emotional abuse. María del Pilar said that nowadays sexual and emotional abuse cases have increased, but the percent has not gone higher than the common physical abuse.
In cases of being in an unhealthy relationship, precautions should be taken. Elizabeth A Manning, PhD states that independence should be acquired by saving money, trusting a family member or friend with the situation and consulting a counselor as soon as possible.
Megan Gerber, MD suggests that an emergency bag should be prepared with clothes, work permits, a cell phone, an address book, credit cards or money and other useful items.
Also community service hotlines are always available to help those in case of being attacked. It is always recommended to call 9-1-1. In case of guidance there are hotlines 24 hours a day available (787-722-2977) or (877-722-2977).
Domestic violence is a very delicate situation for anyone who’s been through it, but help is always available; in case of the aggressors help is also available but to make a change, they have to want to make it happen.
 A fictitious name is used.