A New Effort Demonstrates The Need For More

Domestic ViolenceIn the midst of all the current turmoil and related teeth gnashing ranting and railing associated therewith, it’s nice to find some heroes.  A UCC church in Las Vegas makes the news today with its plan to assist victims of domestic violence, regardless of their gender, race, or creed. [LVSun] Granted domestic violence is mostly associated with protecting women from abusive spouses, but that doesn’t mean it’s restricted to that category.  So, a large round of applause to the little church trying to make a difference in this problematic issue:

“A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that bisexual and lesbian women were more likely to experience domestic violence than heterosexual women, and bisexual men were more likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual men and gay men, who have similar rates.” [LVSun]

All the better since the re-authorization of VAWA in 2013 which finally recognized there might be a problem for members of the LBGT community and for members of Native American tribes.  To their credit, both Nevada Senators Reid and Heller voted in favor of the measure [GovTrak].  The final vote in the House showed all four members of Congress from Nevada voting in favor of the bill. [GovTrak] The measure passed on a 286-138 vote, all the nays coming from the Republican side of the aisle.

As described in a Department of Justice release, the re-authorization of VAWA addressed a serious problem in this country, and the inclusion of provisions for Native Americans was long overdue:

“In 2010, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced an estimated 20 million violent and property victimizations, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). (NCJ 235508) These criminal victimizations included an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes defined as rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Almost 126,000 of the 1.4 million serious violent crimes were rapes and assaults. While this number has decreased over the last few years it is still shows that too many women are endangered and suffering. […] American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.” [DoJ]

The Department of Justice was correct in reporting the disparity in the statistics regarding the physical abuse experienced by Native American women.  Some of the numbers are patently outrageous.

 In a 2008 CDC study, 39% of Native women surveyed identified as victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, a rate higher than any other race or ethnicity surveyed. This finding has been common over the years. A study from 1998 that utilized a large national probability sample (n=8000) found that American Indian/Alaskan Native American women were the most likely racial group to report a physical assault by an intimate partner. [FWV.org pdf]

And: ” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs at least 70% of the violent victimizations experienced by American
Indians are committed by persons not of the same race— a substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims.” [FWV.org pdf]

One of the issues for Native American women in Nevada is distance. There are domestic shelters in all major Nevada towns and cities, but some of these are at no small  physical distance from reservations.  The rural fishbowl effect creates another dilemma.  If a shelter is located in the immediate vicinity everyone knows of it — just as they know about every other thing that happens. If the shelter is located far enough away to secure some anonymity the victim may not have the transportation options available to get there.

In the best of all worlds, we would consider ways to alleviate the need for shelters for victims of domestic violence, urban or rural.

While some of the lists vary, most sources focus on the following elements of spousal abuse behavior.   A 1998 study reported by the NCBI observed:

“The present study compared male spouse abusers, with and without alcohol problems, with age-matched, nonabusive males on measures of personality style, personality disorder, dysphoria, and a number of demographic measures. There were no differences among the groups in racial composition, religious preference, or religious devoutness. Male abusers were less likely to be employed, to be in intact relationships, and were less well educated. They were more likely to have witnessed abuse or experienced abuse as children, although that observation is more characteristic of abusers with alcohol problems. Measures of personality and psychopathology generally supported the hypothesis that abusive males would show greater elevations on test scales reflecting personality disorder and dysphoria and less conformity than nonbatterers. Alcohol abuse was related to greater batterer-nonbatterer differences.”

Translation: Batterers come in all races, creeds, and kinds. They are generally unhappy people, less likely to have steady employment, and more likely to be repeating abuse they witnessed as children.

The batterers tend to try to excuse their behavior — the drinks made me do it defense — and often try to deny that the behavior has any lasting effect on family or personal relationships.  Three other terms associated with battering are possessiveness, jealousy, and domination. [NCCAVA]  The use of violence is a learned behavior, a repetition of childhood scenes, or the continuation of behavior which is not confronted, curtailed, or contained.  Battering is also associated with overall low self esteem and poor communication or interpersonal skills. [NCCAVA]

If this sounds like a mental health issue … it’s because it is.  And, this is not territory in which the state of Nevada has exactly covered itself in glory.  FY 2010’s $184 million sounds like a large figure until it’s broken down per capita and the allocation was  41st in the nation with $68.32 allocated. [GovSL]  The national average per capita expenditure in 2009 was $122.90. [NAMI] The NAMI looked at state budget appropriations by state from FY 2009 to FY 2012 and reported Nevada’s proposed expenditures declined 28.1%, down from $175.5 million to $126.2 million. [NAMI] These reductions put Nevada back at the top of the list for budget cutting of mental health services, along with South Carolina and Alabama. [NAMI]

Unfortunately, in an Age of Austerity, in which public allocation of tax revenues are perceived as expenses rather than investments, there is less incentive to be “the best.” Doing just enough to get by appears preferable? If Nevada would like to be known as the state with the least need for domestic violence shelters — for anyone and everyone — then some soul searching is in order.

Have we equipped and staffed our public schools with the resources to identify, diagnose, and treat children who are in households experiencing domestic violence?  Have we required that private school counterparts do the same?

Have we allocated the necessary resources to help schools, local governments, tribes, and community organizations provide assistance to families in which domestic violence occurs?  Can we offer these entities coordinated programs to promote education, address bullying behaviors, decrease instances of domestic violence?

Have we done enough to provide jobs for those who find their economic circumstances so stressful that violent behavior comes from their lack of personal control as they cope, or not, with the frustration?

The victims of domestic violence, Native American, non-Native, members of the LBGT community, or straight, men and boys, and women and girls, shouldn’t have to wait until that mythical day upon which the magic of trickle down hoax economics kicks in and all will be right with the world.  These men, women, girls, boys, need assistance now — and not in some utopian ethereal world yet to come.

Our Thanks to the members of that Las Vegas UCC church for making life a little bit easier for more people to receive more support.

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