Senior Probation Officer Diana Goodridge has lamented that abuse perpetrated against men is going underreported while children who witness abuse in the household are presenting with behavioural issues.
Speaking during the National Council on Substance Abuse’s webinar on The Link Between Intimate Partner Violence and Substance Abuse, on Wednesday, she said addressing the issue must therefore be done holistically.
Goodridge noted that while the statistics show women are abused more in relationships than their male partners, men in abusive relationships often did not report it either because of the stigma attached or because they were not aware they were victims of abuse.
“I think it’s important to emphasise that it is not only men that are abusers. Often I do workshops with women and . . . they did not know [certain actions] were classed as abuse,” she said.
Giving examples of these acts, Goodridge said: “Don’t yell at your partner in front of his friends; don’t hit or slap because he says something that you don’t like; don’t tell your partner that he can’t hang out with his friends or have other female friends. We talk about having a choice and equality in a relationship, so don’t tell your partner that he has no say with respect to the children or anything else that is happening in the home.”
She added that men and women were sometimes caught in relationships with controlling partners who sought to supervise their time, finances, and the friends they are allowed to have.
Goodridge warned, however, that although many see such behaviours as “normal”, this was a textbook example of abuse.
“Another thing that is often a sign is when that person is constantly calling you. That first time in the relationship you think ‘this is nice, this person is really checking for me all the time, they really care about me, they want to know what I am doing’. But that sort of blowing up and texting constantly, that is a sign of control,” she noted.
The senior probation officer also addressed the impact of domestic violence on children who witness this abuse first-hand.
Goodridge said while the abuse might not be directly targeted at them, it has been proven to have adverse effects on them.
This, she said, was demonstrated in young children engaging in delinquent or violent behaviour.
“There is something called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). What that is, children will often act out delinquent behaviours as a result of adverse childhood experiences, and this goes right through to adulthood. This impacts their health and their behaviours,” she explained.
“Behaviours that are exhibited by these children that have been exposed to domestic abuse [are] reduced attention at school, truancy, disruptive behaviour, low educational achievement, aggressive behaviour, inappropriate sexual behaviour, drug use, [and] criminal activity.”
Goodridge added that ACES research has identified the need for early intervention for children who exhibit such behaviours, since there was an increased risk of escalating levels of violence or disruptive behaviours if appropriate steps are not taken. (SB)