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Unfortunately, domestic violence can be part of the problem of living in an alcoholic home. Roxie H., a freelance writer and a recovering alcoholic herself, wrote this guest column for the Alcoholism site.

Domestic Violence: Taking the first step, Leaving!

Dateline: 01/14/98

During the past year I was living in the worst quagmire a woman can imagine, falling victim to domestic violence.

This punishment hardly seems appropriate considering every nine seconds a woman is physically abused in this country.

After four months of living with an abuser, I fled to another county and what I thought would be a safe haven. Ultimately, this was wrong.

An abuser constantly seeks power and control over those they abuse. On July 13, 1996, my aggressor sought to control me and violated the safety of my home. He has been incarcerated since that warm summer day.

After months of court dates, Prosecuting Attorney and Crime Victim Advocate meetings, he pled guilty to Aggravated Domestic Violence and is awaiting sentencing. A victim of this type of crime has the right to tell the sentencing judge how the violence has affected their life.

When my opportunity to do so crept upon me, I was prompted to do extensive research into domestic violence laws and sentencing guidelines. The facts found have left a wrenching feeling within my stomach.

There are simple assault-domestic and aggravated assault-domestic convictions in the state of Michigan. A person convicted of simple assault-domestic can commit this crime three times before it is considered a felony. For aggravated assault-domestic, a person must be convicted twice before it is considered a felony.

Prison sentencing for these felonies is a maximum two-year and/or $2500 fine. Similar crimes of assault committed by an unknown attacker are punishable by a felony conviction upon the first offense. This punishment hardly seems appropriate considering every nine seconds a woman is physically abused in this country by someone with whom they are intimate.

Stay or Leave?

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statistics, women who leave their abuser are at a 75 percent greater risk of being killed by the offender than those who stay. Forty-two percent of murdered women are killed at the hands of the male partner. Consequently, the question in most victims minds must be, “Should I stay or should I go?”

Recovery from the violence involves much more than escaping the immediate situation.

When a woman makes the choice of leaving, the climb out of the relationship can be treacherous and the facts explain this. Having a place to go and how to support the family presents a problem for many victims.

On a national level, fifty percent of homeless women and children are on the streets because of violence within the home. There are two-thirds more animal shelters than women’s shelters available within the United States. Domestic violence is not segregated to any one culture, race, demographic area or income level, it occurs everywhere often.

The abuse is not only physical, most often there is an irreverent amount of mental and emotional degradation as well. Recovery from the violence involves much more than escaping the immediate situation.

Safety for the women and the children immersed in the coercion is very important to prevent additional deaths of victims. Once the victims are in a safe haven counseling should be considered to regain positive self-esteem and rid the demoralization caused within the relationship.

My son and I remain in weekly therapy sessions in the hopes the nightmares will not occur as often. This recovery is slow and steady within my family. It is time to stop pretending domestic violence cases are isolated and not occurring next door and/or within the homes of friends and families.

There is hope for all involved in domestic violence situations. Being aware of resources and offering some directions to a help-line number or women’s shelter may save a life. Taking that first step is the hardest for a victim and a friend is needed to escape the insanity the cycle of violence causes.

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