By: Linda Hartoonian Almas, M.S. Ed
This past month, I have had the honor of speaking about domestic violence at a training day for law enforcement administrative professionals, as well as at a continuing education program for a local judicial circuit. Both were wonderful days, spent with many amazing men and women in the areas of law enforcement, advocacy, and mental health, as well as those in the spiritual community.
My main goal was to raise awareness. I could speak all day on the topic of domestic violence and its relation to personality disorders and still only scratch the surface of what I have to share. With time constraints in place, I chose to highlight some of the pressing issues surrounding the two and also further explained and defined the varieties of abuses that exist. Further, I identified and described some of the behaviors abusive individuals often display, as well as some typical behavior patterns and personality traits of those who are abused.
Hopefully, I was able to eliminate some of the common myths that tend to go hand in hand with domestic violence and other abuse issues. My hope is that if I keep talking, others will keep listening. In turn, they will help spread the information, as well.
The power of words
Since those presentations, I have had several people contact me, indicating that they knew people who could be helped by the information they learned. That does my heart well, since that is why I do what I do. Helping others out of their unhealthy situations by arming them with information, and raising awareness through education, has become a large part of my life’s work.
I have grown to realize that domestic violence is far more prevalent than most people know, adversely touching the lives of countless individuals; men, women, and children alike. However, when we are willing to discuss abuse and provide illustrations and descriptions for those who may or may not be experiencing it first hand, we open the minds of many who may not have spent much time thinking about the topic.
To some degree, I feel that I have a responsibility to help others grow and accurately recognize and identify abuse. The topic can be confusing. In fact, I have heard this notion echoed in several conversations, “He never hit me, so I was never really abused.” Yet, most went on to describe disturbing acts of serious emotional abuse, that adversely affected their lives. That is abuse! Threats, intimidation, isolation, and other forms of control constitute abuse.
Hearing such sentiments tell me just how necessary it is for us all to keep talking. So many do not fully know and understand the complexity or ramifications of abuse. Also, the perpetrators are often individuals with personality disorders, who feel entitled to harm those they are closest to. This aspect typically fails to enter into the discussions. However, I feel that in order to fully understand abuse, we must understand what motivates the abusive individuals as well.
Are there others out there who don’t know?
Sometimes, this lack of true understanding even extends to some professionals who we trust should know. Experience helps, but without education on the matter, occasionally, a solid grasp evades them. I feel that in order for them to achieve a complete understanding of abuse, they need to better understand personality disorders. This leads me to another goal.
Repeatedly, several readers have written about problems with police, attorneys, judges, and mental health professionals failing to understand the gravity of their situations. I feel immensely fortunate that my interactions with each of these groups of professionals were very positive and that they were aware of such disorders, at least to some degree. At the same time, I fully understand that this is not always the case.
What can we do to create change?
So, what do we do about this? We keep talking. I work with a group that will be speaking at a convention for legal professionals this summer. We will work to further educate judges, lawyers, and law guardians (GAL’s) on psychopathy and some of the abuses that accompany the disorder. In the proposal we submitted, we suggested that there was a significant need for the court system to acknowledge psychopathy and come to understand it better. The response was that they were, in fact, interested in learning!
This is the beginning. I feel that psychopathy and abuse education can have a chain reaction effect. If a handful of people start to discuss the cause, another handful will begin to understand it. That group will begin talking, and awareness will grow.
I am optimistic that positive change is on the horizon. Every one of us can take part. Just keep talking! Keep sharing what you know and have lived. Keep healing and making a difference, in your own household or beyond. Together, we can do this!