FROM THE ARCHIVES: Learn warning signs for abusive relationships

Editor’s note: This regular column explores topics covered in past editions of Aztec Press.

By SIERRA J. RUSSELL

Some people celebrate Valentine’s Day, while others see the holiday end in conflict. Relationships require patience, communication and, in many cases, an unbiased referee.

In 1976, an Aztec Press reporter interviewed two women who had recently been divorced. At the time, divorce procedures were becoming almost as common as weddings.

One of the women interviewed had married at 19. Initially, she viewed marriage as a “declaration of freedom from her parents.”

Eventually, she saw the union as damaging to her livelihood and decided to part ways with her husband of eight years.

“The divorce procedure was like an appointment,” she said. “It lasted a couple of minutes with others waiting in line.”

She said their two daughters spent each summer with their father.

“My own personal experience with him has nothing to do with the girls,” she explained. “Our feelings are stored up, but we don’t let them out.”

The other woman spoke of her ex-husband’s violent behavior, which was linked to his drinking habit.

“I hated him … now I feel sorry for him,” she said. “I really don’t blame him. His father was just like him. He would beat his wife, was a heavy drinker, adulterer and he never talked to his kid.”

In 1992, the Aztec Press spoke with Karen Jaskar, a program assistant at the Brewster Center, a local shelter for battered women and their children.

Jaskar provided guidelines on how to identify and avoid abusive relationships:

  • Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Maintain a healthy support system. Keep your job, your friends and your focus on studies even if your partner encourages you to sacrifice these values.
  • Listen to the honest opinions of friends and family that you trust. Often when we are smitten with someone, it is difficult to see hazardous behavior clearly.
  • Work on strengthening your self-esteem by spending time with people that make you feel good about yourself. Also factor time in for solitude and self-reflection.
  • Do not depend on your partner to “cure” you. In times of stress or confusion, avoid seeking solace in drugs or alcohol. Try instead to engage in physical activity that will help your mind and body feel better, such as hiking or a new yoga class.
  • Do not be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help.

“Domestic violence can occur in married, unmarried, straight or gay relationships, in the foothills or in the barrio,” Jaskar said.

She explained that batterers are typically jealous and possessive, and can switch from charming to furious without warning.

They rarely accept responsibility for any faults, instead placing blame on others. They tend to undermine their partner’s accomplishments and attempt to control their actions.

As the relationship progresses, abusers tries to isolate their mate from friends and family, criticizing anyone who might voice concerns that the relationship is unhealthy and dangerous.

“Abusers put up a good false front and want to be seen as an upstanding person in the community,” Jaskar said. “Batterers have a great interest in keeping the abuse a secret.”

Due to such denial and secrecy, the abuser rarely seeks help for his or her violent behavior.

“It is the victim who is most likely to break the cycle of abuse by asking for outside help,” Jaskar said.

Domestic violence rarely ends without some type of outside intervention, she added.

“Remember, taking care of yourself is your responsibility. So is keeping your eyes open. That way, when Mr. Right does come along, you won’t be busy fielding punches from Mr. Wrong.”

The Brewster Center is still in operation today. More information can be found at brewstercenter.org or by calling 520-881-3063.

Another Tucson shelter that offers help and guidance is the Emerge Center, emergecenter.org. It has a 24 hour hotline: 1-888-428-0101.

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