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As domestic violence surfaces in the media, the issue is highlighted within the Upper Arlington community

by Maeve O’Brien, ’16 and Ellise Shafer, ’17

“You deserve it.”

This is the excuse Jill* often hears after taking a hit from her father. This time she had stayed out with friends past 7:30 p.m., breaking one of her father’s strict rules. For such a little mistake, Jill knew that she did not deserve such a harsh punishment. This was abuse.

Abuse can be divided into three areas: physical, emotional and psychological, according to the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse. Physical abuse involves behaviors such as hitting, pushing and choking. Emotional abuse can include excessive cursing, attacks on self-esteem and criticism. Lastly, psychological abuse involves threatening, as well as throwing or breaking things. In fact, there are 960,000 incidents of domestic violence per year and 681,000 children who are annually abused in America, as stated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Despite the prevalence of domestic violence and child abuse, many have turned a blind eye to this massive social injustice that envelops the nation.

Due to the recent abuse scandals involving NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the controversial issue was thrusted into the national spotlight.

With domestic violence now under scrutiny, new questions about privacy, punishment and boundaries within the home have been raised on both the national and local levels.

ABUSE IN ARLINGTON

These types of physical harm occur not only at the celebrity level.

It’s easy to dismiss domestic violence as a distant issue that doesn’t have any direct impact on the Upper Arlington community, as it does not seem to be a prominent problem. However, abusive behaviors are often conducted in secrecy, making it difficult to fathom within the safe community of UA.

“Domestic and child abuse happens in every town and suburb across America,” Counselor Mary Anne Nyeste stated. “It takes its toll on the victims, physically and emotionally.”

Although unimaginable to the typical middle-class suburban teenager, abuse is a reality for Jill. At home, Jill’s father inflicts both verbal and physical abuse on her, as well as her mother and older siblings. For now, he refrains from doing the same to her younger siblings.

Jill thinks her father’s actions originate from his controlling personality. He was raised in a different country in the 1950s and 60s, and the environment he was raised in as a child could have a profound impact on how he handles matters with his own family.

“He doesn’t talk about his parents that much, but I’ve considered that he grew up in a household where he had seen abuse,” Jill said.

According to the Childhelp organization, in the U.S., 30 percent of abused children will go on to later abuse their children. Children who are constantly exposed to abuse are predisposed to abusing their own children.

Sophomore Sam Cole believes the only way to disrupt this cycle is to leave the abusive situation.

“An abused child should always tell an adult because if they don’t, they will continue to be abused and will probably, in time, abuse their own children,” Cole said. “Abuse is a vicious cycle. The only way to escape is to get out of the situation.”

Jill’s father also asserts his dominance within the home by imposing strict rules, such as not letting Jill drive or stay out past 7:30 p.m. When these rules are broken, Jill receives physical punishment. This occurs a few times a week.

“He just wants to be in charge of everything,” Jill said. “So that’s why when you try to go against that just slightly, he doesn’t like it.”

While Jill’s father is allowed to choose how he punishes his children, there is a fine line between what is reasonable and what is not. Junior Elise Hummel was raised in a stable home, and believes any type of punishment that jeopardizes the child’s safety is not reasonable.

“The way that parents discipline their children is their own affair until the child’s health, either mental or physical, is put at risk,” Hummel said.

Furthermore, the abusive environment of Jill’s home is not strictly physical. Her father makes harsh verbal comments that contribute to emotional degradation within the rest of Jill’s family.

“[He will say things] like, ‘You’re worthless,’ or ‘You’re tearing the family apart,’ like that kind of stuff that brings you down,” Jill said.

The abuse inflicted upon Jill’s mother is more frequent. Jill’s father treats his wife poorly, creating a destructive environment in which to raise kids.

“He puts her down a lot,” Jill said. “Like that whole ‘Women should be more submissive under men’ kind of thing.”

Although she’s combating a physically, mentally and emotionally abusive spouse, Jill’s mother tries to put on a brave face for the sake of her family.

“She tries to sugarcoat it for me and my siblings, so that we don’t dwell on the fact that she’s going through something like that,” Jill said.

With recent events regarding abuse appearing constantly on news stations and publications, Jill and her mother have become increasingly ignorant of their family’s similar situation.

“It is kinda uncomfortable when someone or something mentions domestic violence. I think my family realizes that my dad is doing the same thing,” Jill said. “Usually, either me or my mom change the topic or channel, or somehow keep my family from paying attention to whatever ‘it’ is. I’ll admit, it’s a sad truth in the sense that we know it’s something going on in our lives that we can’t get away from.”

Jill expressed that she does not have any desire to fight back against her father. However, she fears the impact an abusive household could have on her younger siblings. Although Jill’s father refrains from abusing her younger siblings, she is afraid that her younger brother may eventually become violent or angry after years of watching abuse.

“I hope my dad doesn’t hit my younger siblings, because I feel like when you hit guys, they might not take it. Girls just take it, but I feel like guys build up more anger than girls do,” Jill said. “When he gets to be my age, my brother might fight back. My little brother isn’t an angry person, but i feel like if he keeps seeing what he sees that he might become that. You know, if he keeps it all inside then he might blow up.”

Because of the harmful conflict between her parents, Jill wants her mother to leave her father in order to create a safer environment for Jill and her younger siblings to live in.

Jill is not the only one in this situation. Allen Banks, counselor at UAHS, has seen cases of abusive behavior among other students families. Banks has had to call Franklin County Child Services about once a year to report a suspected case of abuse.

However, in an Arlingtonian survey, only 22 percent of UAHS students think that abuse is an issue in UA.

“I do not think abuse is prevalent UA because we are a wealthier community,” Cole said. “Generally adults here are better educated and as a result know the risks of abusing their child.”

Although Cole’s response was widely seen among students, Hummel’s perspective appeared to be the most popular.

“To know how prevalent abuse is in our community is a hard thing to find out,” Hummel countered.

Hummel, along with the student body, is right- it is difficult to gage the prevalence of domestic violence and child abuse when so many cases go undetected and covered from the public eye. Hummel claims many victims are too afraid to come forward and accuse their abusers because they fear the negative repercussions that would follow.

SOLUTION

Evidently, domestic and child abuse is an issue even within Upper Arlington. But how can someone get themselves out of a situation like Jill’s? The first step is being able to talk about the subject.

“I think it only comes up if people suspect it or if you finally want to speak about it,” Jill said. “Like if you want to make a difference about it. If you can make a difference about it.”

Cole believes that the only way to make this difference is to tell someone, no matter how difficult it could prove for the victim.

“If you know someone is being abused, you should always tell an adult,” Cole said. “The person being abused may be too scared to stand up for themselves so it becomes the responsibility of others to try and help.”

However, it is often hard to detect elements of domestic violence or child abuse within someone’s home. There isn’t always a security camera to catch the abuser in the act or an innocent bystander to report the crime. In often cases, evidence of abuse is heavily concealed and matters are handled behind closed doors. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, most cases of abuse are never reported. Therefore, those abusers are never actually convicted.

“In my experience, Franklin County Child Services has never removed a child from the home,” Banks said.

Although charges may not be made in an effort to keep families together, steps can still be taken to ensure safety.

“Depending on the severity and frequency, calling FCCS is the only way to deal with it if it fits the definition of abuse,” Banks commented. “Often times they educate the parent on the laws of disciplining their child.”

Nyeste seconds Banks’ statement, agreeing that the only solution is to speak up, and make yourself heard.

“We [the counselors] and our police department will always work toward keeping families together, referring family members for counseling and keep our students safe,” Nyeste said. “Any student who is involved in an abusive situation should talk to an adult who can find the resources needed to help the family.”

Image Caption: A small child is cowering in the presence of his father. Child abuse and domestic violence affects people off all ages in all communities, even the unexpected ones.

Image by: Megan Wheeler