by Stacey Womack, Executive Director of Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services
“He’s never hit me or been physical. It only happened once.”
Most people so narrowly define domestic violence and abuse that they decide what they are experiencing isn’t abuse at all. It doesn’t help that society tends to view it the same way.
It’s a challenging topic indeed. Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services (ARMS) has been working with victims and survivors of domestic violence for over twenty years, and we can tell you with resounding confidence that physical abuse, while dangerous, scary, and illegal, is not the form of abuse those we serve say is the worst. Emotional abuse has the most difficult and longest lasting effects, with verbal abuse a close second.
Domestic abuse isn’t about any one particular behavior. It is a pattern of behaviors used to gain and maintain power and control in an intimate relationship. It is never a one-time event, and it always includes multiple forms of abuse. In fact, you never experience physical abuse without experiencing other forms first. Forms of domestic abuse include: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, property, financial, spiritual, and animal. Many abusers never escalate to stereotypical types of physical abuse if they can control their partners through other ways.
Physical abuse isn’t just about physical harm. It can include posturing to intimidate or blocking a door. Verbal abuse isn’t just yelling, swearing, and name calling. It includes more subtle things like the silent treatment to punish, sarcasm, or being critical. Sexual abuse isn’t just about rape, although this happens often in intimate partner violence, but it also includes sexual putdowns and pouting to get their way. Emotional abuse leaves a person feeling confused. They begin to question their own sanity. They lose sight of who they are and their value in God. ARMS has several resources on our website www.armsonline.org including a list of types of abuse and an evaluation to determine the health of a relationship.
Domestic abuse is a learned behavior that is passed on from one generation to the next. Men exposed to physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or domestic violence as children are almost four times more likely than other men to perpetrate domestic violence as adults.
Men and women have shared with us how they vowed they would never repeat the abusive behaviors they grew up with (the abuse or the acceptance of it), yet when conflicts arise, they find themselves reverting back to what they know. This is normal, but it is essential to equip those in abusive relationships to recognize the abuse, admit that it was wrong and hurtful, and seek help. This is how cycles of abuse end.
Parents are the number one influencers on a child’s life. Even if only one parent is willing to get help out of domestic abuse, it can become a catalyst for change for an entire family. Children cannot bring change to their home environments, but their parents can. Through the courage of their parents, the next generation can learn a healthier way to be in relationships move forward in life.
For practical tools to serve clients who are potential victims of domestic violence, check out Stacey Womack's new recorded webinar, What You Need to Know About Domestic Abuse, Click here to order.
by Susan Dammann RN LAS, Medical Specialist
Recently, while volunteering at a local pregnancy center, I had to report two cases to the county children’s services. Both were cases of statutory rape, including one involving possible domestic abuse.
While it was certainly unusual to have two cases to report in a single morning, we are seeing more and more cases the state mandates our center to report.
Are you a mandatory reporter? Read the two statements from Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect to find out.
Each State has laws requiring certain people to report concerns of child abuse and neglect. While some States require all people to report their concerns, many States identify specific professionals as mandated reporters; these often include social workers, medical and mental health professionals, teachers, and child care providers. Specific procedures are usually established for mandated reporters to make referrals to child protective services.
Approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment. Individuals designated as mandatory reporters typically have frequent contact with children. Such individuals may include:
• Social workers• Teachers, principals, and other school personnel• Physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers• Counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals• Child care providers• Medical examiners or coroners• Law enforcement officers
For up-to-date information on your state’s mandatory reporting requirements, click here. Visit www.ChildWelfare.gov for definitions of child abuse and domestic violence in your state, as well valuable information including listings of mandated reporters and more.
Since your center is equally committed to protecting maternal health and promoting child well-being, you will want to ensure all volunteer and staff members have all the information they need in order to identify and report potential cases of abuse. Mandatory reporter training is typically offered wherever such regulations are enforced, and includes education on who is a mandatory reporter, what information they are required to report, how/to whom the information is required to be reported, as well as issues related to anonymity and immunity.
Simply search “Mandated Reporter Training” along with your state, using a search engine such as Google, to access your state-specific training material.
Material in-hand, consider training your staff using this information, or schedule a special session with an expert in your area. Your center’s investment in this invaluable training could very well make a life-and-death difference in a woman’s life.
While your primary motivation will center around the positive difference your preparedness to identify and report child abuse and neglect can make in a woman’s life, failure to report these incidents—or worse, false reporting of these incidents—constitutes a crime with accompanying penalties in approximately 47 U.S. states and many territories.
See Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect for more information.
Also included in the discussion of mandatory reporting is the concept of privileged communications, which is designed to protect confidential communications between professionals and their clients, with the ultimate goal of providing protection to mistreated minors.
The relevant section on www.ChildWelfare.gov includes the following explanation:
Mandatory reporting statutes also may specify when a communication is privileged. "Privileged communications" is the statutory recognition of the right to maintain confidential communications between professionals and their clients, patients, or congregants. To enable States to provide protection to maltreated children, the reporting laws in most States and territories restrict this privilege for mandated reporters. All but three States and Puerto Rico currently address the issue of privileged communications within their reporting laws, either affirming the privilege or denying it (i.e., not allowing privilege to be grounds for failing to report). For instance:
• The physician-patient and husband-wife privileges are the most common to be denied by States.• The attorney-client privilege is most commonly affirmed.• The clergy-penitent privilege is also widely affirmed, although that privilege usually is limited to confessional communications and, in some States, denied altogether.
One of the most common types of abuse we deal with in pregnancy help organizations of all kinds is statutory rape. A report entitled, "Statutory Rape Laws By State" introduces the topic as follows:
Most states do not refer specifically to statutory rape; instead they use designations such as sexual assault and sexual abuse to identify prohibited activity. Regardless of the designation, these crimes are based on the premise that until a person reaches a certain age, he is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Thus, instead of including force as a criminal element, theses crimes make it illegal for anyone to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone below a certain age, other than his spouse. The age of consent varies by state, with most states, including Connecticut, setting it at age 16. The age of consent in other states ranges from ages 14 to 18.
Some states base the penalty for violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher penalties. For example, California, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, and New York reserve their harshest statutory rape penalty for offenders who are age 21 or older.
Click here to see the most up-to-date information on state-specific statutory rape laws and mandatory reporting requirements.
For the safety and welfare of your clients, and to be sure you are complying with your state statutes on mandated reporting, Heartbeat International recommends you search out the particular mandates for your state, develop policies and procedures on mandated reporting and schedule an in-service on this topic to insure all staff and volunteers fully understand the issue and comply with the mandates.
Linked here is Pregnancy Decision Health Centers’ policy, which you can use as a template for your center.
Please note: PDHC is in the state of Ohio, and these guidelines may differ in other states. This policy is to be used as a sample only. Please be sure to abide by your state's specific guidelines on all mandatory reporting policies.
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