By Emalee Gillis, NAMI Spokane Blog Editor.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that happens over time in which one person maintains power and control over another person,” according to Melva Moore, the Director of Mental Health Services at the Spokane YWCA. That behavior could be physical or sexual abuse, but it can also come in a variety of other formats. The power wheel below identifies some of the ways domestic violence takes shape in Spokane as well as in other parts of the country.
“For example, power and control can be in the form of reproductive coercion,” said Ms. Moore. “That could involve tampering with a woman’s birth control like poking holes in condoms, or not allowing a woman to refill her birth control prescription. These coercive actions could result in getting a woman pregnant against her will. Forced sex after violence is another example of reproductive coercion.
“As an example of spiritual abuse, a perpetrator will take different parts of the bible like verses that say a woman should be submissive to a husband, and then use that scripture as a weapon against a survivor to make them stay in the relationship. It could also involve a perpetrator getting the church or congregation against the survivor which can make it very difficult to leave.
“In cultural abuse, there can be a power shift in favor of the perpetrator if the perpetrator is a citizen of the U.S. and the survivor is undocumented. A perpetrator might threaten to call border control if she doesn’t do what he wants.”
Ms. Moore continued, “Domestic violence in Spokane is sometimes less overt and falls under the category of manipulation and control. For example, the perpetrator can tell the survivor not to talk to their sisters because they talk badly about him. Over time, the survivor becomes more isolated from friends, family members and coworkers. When a survivor is isolated she is moved away from her support system which makes a situation quite dangerous.”
If a friend wants to help someone who may be involved in a domestic violence situation, Ms. Moore stressed that it is very important to not simply tell that person to leave the relationship. Studies have shown that a survivor is most at risk when making preparations to leave. Telling a person to leave their partner when there is no safety plan in place, puts that person in danger.
Instead, Ms. Moore encourages friends to direct a potential domestic violence survivor to the YWCA domestic violence hotline in Spokane at 509-326-2255. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is staffed by trained advocates. The YWCA advocate will help the survivor assess the situation and see what is needed for the next step. Planning might take the form of helping the survivor identify warning signs before the perpetrator turns to violence and ideas on how to mitigate the situation. If the next step is to leave the relationship, the advocate will help put a safety plan in place. The hotline is also where advocates assess the need for YWCA shelter services.
The domestic violence shelter run by the Spokane YWCA is a 10 bedroom home in a confidential location that can host a variety of different family sizes. Families usually have their own room and have their own or shared bathroom. They also have access to a full kitchen and communal living spaces. There is a case manager at the shelter who can help with housing and connect the survivor to a variety of resources in the area.
Ms. Moore stressed that it is important for family and friends of a survivor to understand that it is extremely hard for a domestic violence survivor to leave their partner and is typically a long journey. Domestic violence is a complicated situation first of all because survivors love their partners. The cycle of violence further complicates the situation. The cycle begins with an elongated honeymoon phase where things are good. That is follows by a smaller period of tension, which is followed by an even smaller period where the perpetrator is explosive followed by another honeymoon phase. The honeymoon phase typically feels really good. The partner makes promises and gives the survivor special attention. There is much hope and love. The survivor can feel like things are getting better. Partners can be really manipulative in the honeymoon phase. They know what to say to get the survivor back. Ms. Moore explained, “The typical survivor attempts to leave her partner 9 to 12 times before she is successful.”
Ms. Moore had other advice for friends of survivors, “Tell the person you care about them and have concerns. Keep the door open for communication. It is also okay to set boundaries. This is a long process.”
In addition to a hotline and shelter, the Spokane YWCA offers legal services. They help survivors navigate the court system. Often when police are called to a domestic violence situation in a home, a criminal process is started. YWCA advocates walk alongside survivors. They are not attorneys, but they know what is happening next and where the survivor’s voice can be heard. The advocates can also help get an order of protection. In addition, on the civil side of the law, the Spokane YWCA has attorneys who can offer support for survivors in obtaining a divorce, parenting plans, and legal separation. The intake forms for obtaining legal help are on the Spokane YWCA website.
When explaining why women are much more often the victims of domestic violence compared to men, Ms. Moore said, “You really have to look at the power dynamics in our society beginning with the way boys and girls are socialized at a young age. Boys are socialized to be more aggressive and in charge. Girls are socialized to be more submissive and quiet. As another sign in our society that men are given more power, you can also look at the way men are paid at higher rates than women in any sector. When the social dynamics are added to power and control it is a recipe for women to become victims of domestic violence.”
She added, “Men can also be victims of domestic violence and the YWCA serves anyone who is a victim.”
In 2022, the Spokane YWCA’s domestic violence program provided support over 14,000 times including through telephone support, shelter support, counseling, legal assistance, trauma services for children, job and school readiness for women, preparing children for success, and community members receiving education and training. To learn more about the Spokane YWCA’s domestic violence services, visit their website or call the local domestic violence helpline at 509-326-2255.
Melva Moore, LICSW is the Director of Mental Health Services at the Spokane YWCA. She provides assistance and strategic planning to her team. She has worked at the Y for ten years in a variety of positions helping people through their healing process.
Emalee Gillis is a writer and blog editor. She is the author of the memoir Adventures on the Path to Living Well with a Mental Illness and has a related TEDx Talk.