Stressful times affect family, relationships

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Across the United States and in the Air Force community, during October, individuals and organizations focus on increasing public awareness about domestic violence. In the Luke community, we can make our own contribution toward ending domestic violence and nurturing emotionally healthy relationships.

During stressful times we should reflect on how we're doing in our personal and family relationships. The increased business of daily life, deployments or life transitions, such as having a baby, can challenge even the closest families.

According to the American Medical Association, "domestic violence is characterized as a pattern of coercive behaviors that may include repeated physical violence, psychological abuse, sexual assault, social isolation, deprivation and intimidation." Domestic violence does not discriminate against military rank, social, economic, religious, cultural or ethnic status. The victim and offender can be either gender. Both often typically suffer from feelings of low self worth with the abusive individual using various methods to control and keep the victim dependent on them. Too often, abusive relationships are generational, that is if a child is brought up in an abusive home, they have a greater chance of repeating the same behavior in their intimate adult relationships. The cycle of abuse can move into yet another

The good news is we do not have to repeat unhealthy patterns in our relationships if we seek help and are motivated to change. The Family Advocacy Program and Life Skills Support Center staff offer educational literature and classes, programs, and counseling for individuals, couples and families who are seeking to strengthen their relationships. The Air Force recognizes that many families may experience a crisis due to relationship conflict, deployments, death, parent-child difficulties, financial demands or other stressors. Military personnel are encouraged to seek help before problems escalate and take measures that can ensure healthy and respectful relationships.

Participation in marital counseling, parenting classes and couples communication workshops is not formally documented in the military member's record. Seeking help is never a sign of weakness but, instead a sign of strength and wisdom.

Where domestic abuse is a concern, everyone has a part. Mandatory reporting of suspected domestic abuse is everyone's responsibility. Reports can be made anonymously and reported abuse cases are addressed with sensitivity for all parties involved.

October is set aside as domestic violence awareness month to encourage people to think about what they can do to end domestic violence in our community.

Random acts of kindness to others can help reduce feelings of isolation and encourage a community of caring behavior. Getting to know neighbors, offering a nonjudgmental conversation to an overworked friend, learning to listen and communicate needs and expectations with a partner, and clarifying family values are just a few ways to create secure and loving relationships.

Ending domestic violence begins with recognizing it. The following questions will help a person determine if abuse is present in his or her relationship.

Does your partner ... 

- embarrass you in front of friends or family or drive them away?
- curse or scream at you, name call or use put downs?
- use intimidation or threats to get you to do what he or she wants?
- tell you that you are nothing without them?
- grab, push, pinch, shove, slap, choke, punch, kick, bite, spank, scratch, burn or restrain you?
- throw objects or break your possessions?
- threaten the safety of children or pets?
- threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
- insist you dress the way he or she wants?
- subject you to reckless driving?
- behave jealously by accusing you of flirting or cheating?
- withhold approval, appreciation or affection as punishment?
- control access to money and transportation?
- use alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
- blame you for how they feel or act?
- pressure you sexually for things you don't want to do?
- prevent you from doing things you want to do?
- try to keep you from leaving the room or house? 

Do you ... 

- sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
- constantly make excuses to other people for your partner's behavior?
- believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
- try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
- always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
- stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you left?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.

Domestic violence doesn't just stop on its own. The Family Advocacy Program is available to help military families end the abuse.

For more information about how family advocacy can provide support for individuals, couples or families, call (623) 856-3417.