Domestic Violence Victims and Soldiers – What Do They Have in Common?

“A battlefield is a battlefield. I don't care where you are fighting it. Unless you have lived through fearing for your life on a nightly basis, you cannot imagine what war is like.” – Dr. Gayle J. Hall.

A victim of domestic violence fights for her life on a daily basis, just like a soldier on the front line of combat fights for his. Now, this may be difficult for soldiers to understand and may even make some angry. They may say, “I sure did not see any women out there on the front line with me when I was at war. What the hell! How can you possibly compare the two?” Here is my reply to those remarks. You are 100% correct. A woman may not be on the front line of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nevertheless, if a woman is living in a ferocious domestic violence situation in her own home, she may be facing the front line of combat nightly right in her own living room with the very same person she must sleep next to.

The following are four common denominators between victims of domestic violence and soldiers once they are out of the war zone:

1). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We are now seeing a higher rate of PTSD with our soldiers returning from war than ever before. My belief is that the soldiers understand they can talk about what they have witnessed without the feelings of shame and guilt. On the other hand, victims of domestic violence who suffer from PTSD (and not all do — only about 20%), still have some of the symptoms of PTSD more than five years after being out of the abusive relationship. Domestic violence victims who fit this category may still suffer from flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and sleeplessness.

2). Both the victims of domestic violence and soldiers have problems with maintaining attention for any period of time. This common factor causes them to be restless. They have been trained to listen for sounds so they may take control of their situation during an attack. A battered woman must learn to flee her abuser or retaliate, while the soldier has learned to kill or be killed.

3). Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is very common for any survivor of abuse or soldier returning from war. This means the person is a “worrier” and worries about anything and everything, for no apparent reason. For the survivor of domestic violence, she has been under the rule of her mate and has not been allowed to think for herself. Regarding the soldier, he has been told 24/7 what to do and must now try to blend back into society and make decisions daily. This may seem easy to a regular person; however, for a soldier, having to make daily decisions may be overwhelming at first. Both the soldier and the battered woman may suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

4). Proximity and personal space will be common issues for both the domestic violence victim and soldier returning from war. Victims of domestic violence have sometimes been kept from their friends and family during the relationship with their abuser. They may want extreme closeness, or may be so used to abandonment, they prefer being left alone. Soldiers have, for the most part, been in groups and sub-groups. They are used to their “own kind” and this is their preference. They would choose to not venture into large crowds of unknown people and may not even be comfortable going to the grocery store.

I hope these four descriptors of similarities for domestic violence survivors and soldiers have helped you understand some of the complications from living in a battlefield. War is war and adapting afterward takes time, both for victims of domestic violence, as well as soldiers in our Armed Forces. Thank you, God, for our brave warriors!

©Copyright — Gayle Joplin Hall, PhD. All rights reserved worldwide. None of this material may be downloaded or reproduced without written permission from the author.

Domestic Violence: The Downfall of Domestic Violence – Part Five, in a Series of Six

“I am a survivor of domestic violence.  Three of my closest and dearest friends never knew the hell I lived through during my battlefield.  Victims are the best at hiding our secrets from the world.  Our shame and blame defines us, strips our souls, and masks our identities.” — Dr. Gayle J. Hall.

One dear friend in Kansas City who has been with me for over 20 years, had an inkling that something was wrong; however, I was forced to move 13 hours away.   I made two new friends in the small town I moved to and saw each of them during separate venues.  They never suspected one thing was wrong with me, although one of my girlfriends asked me once why I was always leaving class so quickly and could not go for coffee or talk afterwards.  My excuse was that I had to pick up my little boy from his preschool.  I often wondered what might have happened if either of those two friends had known about the domestic violence before I had him arrested the night he tried to kill me.

A battered woman is hesitant to tell anyone about domestic violence because she is ashamed.  The motives behind “not telling the big secret” are numerous and may vary.  One common downfall is the issue of trust and being able to find a therapist, life coach, or counselor who the victim feels she is safe with.  After all, the victim's partner was supposed to be the one person in the world she could turn to for providing safety, yet he betrayed her.  Trusting anyone, after being a victim of domestic violence, takes a very long time.  The victim will become withdrawn from friends or family, or both, and as a result of this isolation, the abuse becomes more rampant.  The victim will learn to live without the ability to trust anyone.

Another downfall is that women in chronic abusive relationships blame themselves for the violence.  They feel they deserve the blame because if they were better wives or lovers, their partners or husbands would love them more and attack them less.  When the victim does finally seek help, quite often she will mask the real reason for the visit, due to blaming of self and others.

Chronic illnesses may also be a result and downfall of being a battered woman.  Reports have indicated the victim may suffer prolonged periods of anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and more.

Labels hurt people and they certainly harm a woman who has survived and conquered domestic violence.  Downfalls from domestic violence can be changed from living with disgrace to “living with grace and dignity.”  I am a survivor of domestic violence.  I suffer from OCD, GAD, and yes, I have PTSD.  I take prescribed medication for these illnesses.  I am not proud of this.  Nevertheless, I am not living in shame, nor am I in hiding.  I am living with grace and dignity.  I paid my price dearly during my years of abuse and now it is my calling to give back to others.

I still cannot sit with my back facing a doorway.  I still cannot put anything over my face or nose, for fear of not being able to breathe.  I still do not like dark rooms, except for when I am sleeping.  I do not like elevators or tunnels.  I am afraid of empty stairwells when I am the only person walking in them.  I do not like parking garages.  I still prefer sleeping alone.  I became an excellent marksman.  I will remember details of your face upon meeting you and be able to tell you what you were wearing.  I can provide distinct descriptions.  You see, once a person is ever attacked, has become a victim of a violent crime, or suffered at the hands of an abuser, any abuser, they learn survival tactics and skills.  I learned them well.  I also took many types of extracurricular classes during my training to help other battered women when I knew this was my calling.

Resiliency is my core and my backbone.  I have many quirks, but I am strong, I am a woman, and I am a survivor of domestic violence.  Watch me now, as I help you become resilient and restore your grace and dignity, also.

Hopefully you read the fourth article titled; “A Few Signs of Domestic Violence You Cannot Ignore – Part Four, in a Series of Six.”

Please read the final article in this series of six on domestic violence titled, “Domestic Violence Prevention.”

©Copyright — Gayle Joplin Hall, PhD.  All rights reserved worldwide.  None of this material may be downloaded or reproduced without written permission from the author.

Domestic Violence: Vivid Descriptions of Physical, Emotional, and Psychological Abuse – Part Two, in a Series of Six.

Domestic Violence Description

She looks normal, right?

“Even to this day, it is difficult to discuss with some people and provide vivid descriptions what really happens in a domestic violent situation. This is because some do not want to hear the truth and the facts.  More than ever before, I feel it is my duty to tell, to inform, to educate, anyone and everyone, who will listen.  This is my ‘job' and calling from God.” — Dr. Gayle J. Hall.

Have you ever noticed a woman in the grocery store or at work who has a black eye, marks on her neck, or seems extremely anxious for no apparent reason and wondered why that might be?  Quite possibly, she may be a victim of domestic violence.  Oddly enough, just last night, my son and his colleague were at their apartment when a young woman came over with her baby in her arms, asking to use the phone.  She had been beaten up by her boyfriend.  She dialed 911.  Before the police arrived, the abuser tried to cause trouble with my son.  Fortunately, the police arrived and hauled the batterer off to jail.  That telephone call may have saved a life.

Domestic violence is the principal cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44 years old, more than all other forms of violence, including muggings, burglary, and automobile accidents.  Many victims of domestic violence seek treatment for their physical abuse before meeting their emotional needs.  Women may seek help for physical injuries from a hospital or medical clinic.  The emotional and psychological abuse is ongoing and may last long after the relationship has ended.

Physical abuse during domestic violence may include any of the following; Choking, biting, kicking, throwing, slapping, hitting, punching, breaking bones, confinement or restraining, assaulting with a knife or firearm, raping, forced group sex, or sexual bondage.  This list is not comprehensive.

Emotional and psychological abuse are very closely related, but they are not the same.  A good definition of emotional abuse is the humiliation and intimidation of another person.  Examples of emotional abuse in domestic violence by your partner may include, but are not limited to; name-calling, insulting remarks, verbally abuses your children or your pets, threatens to leave you or threatens to make you leave, governs all the money and decisions in the household, prevents you from working or seeing your friends, isolates you from your family members, restricts you from talking on the phone, refuses to take you out in public or socialize with you, criticizes or belittles you in public or in person, manipulates you with lies, tells you that you are worthless and cannot make it without him, accuses you of having affairs, ridicules your beliefs or thoughts, tries to change the person you are, frequently ignores your requests and feelings, withholds sex or intimacy, or intimidates you through body language or facial expression.

Psychological abuse occurs when a person's rational and emotional thinking is undesirably impacted due to extreme and repeated measures of power imbalance.  Another way of stating this would be; emotional abuse that is so intimidating as to cause  adverse psychological reactions and impact the person's psyche and psychological health over a long period of time, can be considered psychological abuse.  Examples of this may include that the victim of domestic violence suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, depression, or severe anxiety.

Hopefully, by reading this article, you will have gained a more clear understanding of the differences between physical, emotional, and psychological abuse in a domestic violent relationship.

The one constant that will not change is this…a woman will not leave the relationship until she has the support and courage to do so.  She cannot just walk out.  Domestic violence is a matter of control by the abuser.  Please read the first of six articles in this series titled, “Domestic Violence:  What It Is – Part One, in a Series of Six.”

Watch for the third article in this series of six on domestic violence titled, “Domestic Violence:  Recognizing the Three Phases – Part Three, in a Series of Six.

©Copyright — Gayle Joplin Hall, PhD.  All rights reserved worldwide.  None of this material may be downloaded or reproduced without written permission from the author.

War Effects of Soldiers – Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“PTSD is the fear controlling you. Exposing your fear is controlling your PTSD!” — Anthony Parsons.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, is defined as a condition in which a person experiences enduring physical or psychological symptoms after an extremely stressful event or series of events.

In World War I, this problem was known as Shell Shock.  During World War II, this was called Combat Fatigue.  Now, it is known as PTSD.

Soldiers are trained to believe they must kill or be killed during combat in war.  War may leave deep, psychological scars.Understanding PTSD and the symptoms will help those who welcome home the soldier receive the treatment he or she needs so the soldier may work on regaining their psychological health and freedom.

The following are seven indicators of PTSD:

(1).  Flashbacks are the hallmark of PTSD.  A flashback includes vivid memories, feelings, and images of traumatic experiences.  When I say “hallmark” I  mean this is the most common symptom for those plagued with PTSD.

(2).  Nightmares are the second highest indicator of PTSD.  Many times, soldiers will sleep with the lights on (if lighting is available) or avoid sleep as long as possible so the frequent nightmares will not reappear.

(3).  Sleeplessness.  This goes along with nightmares, mentioned above.  The soldiers know if they fall asleep, they may have nightmares; therefore, a vicious cycle ensues to try to stay awake for extended periods of time.  Soldiers in the war zone have gone for 28 hours regularly with no sleep. Studies have proven that after 28 hours with no sleep, the possibility of making grave errors rises to an all-time high.  This places the soldiers at elevated risks and can get them killed.

(4).  Recurring anxiety is a common denominator for those affected by PTSD, especially soldiers returning from war.  They are anxious about many different things.  Think about it this way.  You, as a civilian, are at home, getting dressed for work and must decide what to wear that day.  As a soldier, the warrior is constantly apprehensive of where his boots, gear, bitch (M-16), and extra ammo are when he is at war.  It takes a while to get past this.

(5).  Intrusive thoughts haunt the soldier, as do certain sounds.  When the soldier is in the war zone, he or she is on high alert at all times.  They see and hear things that we have not seen or heard, such as unpleasant thoughts of shootings the day before, losing their buddies, horrific things we, as civilians, have not had to deal with.  These intrusive thoughts can enter the mind at any time, until they are controlled.  There are instances when they cannot be controlled 100% of the time.

(6).  A soldier has problems with attention when he or she has PTSD.  Soldiers are conditioned to never be relaxed, so when they do have that opportunity of being outside the war zone, there is difficulty in paying attention.  The soldier is thinking about war again and that is where his or her attention is focused.  The mind wanders if PTSD is not treated.

(7).  Social withdrawal is the final sign of PTSD.  Soldiers have a difficult time readjusting to civilian life after coming back from war.  They do not feel they can talk about what they have seen or done because nobody will understand them.  As a result of this, they turn their thoughts inward, this becomes shame, which turns into blame, and one big circle of negative forces drive them deeper into PTSD.

The good news is that there is hope for those who suffer from PTSD.  The first step for soldiers returning from war or any Veteran suffering from PTSD is to go their local Veterans Hospital (VA) and get the diagnosis.  File papers for disability.  Seek out treatment from the VA in support groups, find a good Life Coach who fully understands PTSD, or search for a mental health professional who can treat PTSD.  Many cannot do so.  What is important is that you find a therapist or professional person you can relate to, someone you can work with and feel comfortable with, and develop a relationship with.  Please understand that this is not a quick fix.  There is more than one method of approach for PTSD and it is a partnership to find what works best for you.

Watch for my next article titled, “Reasons Why Soldiers Have Difficulty Adjusting to a Civilian Lifestyle After Serving Their Country.”

©Copyright — Gayle Joplin Hall, PhD.  All rights reserved worldwide.  None of this material may be downloaded or reproduced without written permission from the author.