Real talk with Allison Davis: On domestic abuse
October 3, 2012
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- Allison Davis is a mother of three. She's an avid traveler. She's approachable, compassionate, easy to talk, good at listening, and what's more, she has more than 18 years of experience with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She's the Schweinfurt garrison victim advocate.
"I don't have a definitive job description," said Davis. "If you need someone to talk to, that's what I'm here for. If you find yourself without a way to Ledward or an appointment, I can assist with that. If you'd like someone to accompany you to a legal or medical appointment, I can do that."
Allison Davis is available 24/7 via the hotline at 0162-271-1413. She can also be found at her office located within the ACS building on Ledward Barracks Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Her office line is DSN 354-6933/6681, CIV 09721-96-6933/6681. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I sat with Davis as she passionately recounted over 18 years of experience with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Talking with Davis was like talking with a genuine friend--easy and refreshing.
I sat with Davis to discuss domestic violence.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF ABUSE THAT A VICTIM USUALLY DOES NOT THINK OF OR SEE AS ABUSE?
We automatically look for the black eye or bruises, but it can be any combination of signs. If your spouse is very controlling of where you go, how much time you spend at some place, and of who you can and cannot talk to; tries to keep you away from family members and friends; and is the sole person in charge of finances and you have no idea of the status. That is abuse. If you are ever in a situation where you are doing something against your will and your spouse is adamant that you do it, then that is abuse. If your spouse has an addiction, and you try hard not to make it known to anyone and/or you enable him or her, then that is a form of abuse.
It's amazing the number of victims who are controlled when their spouse is downrange. One would think that with the spouse being miles and miles away, the victim now has more liberties. However, the victim's mindset is "No, they will get mad if I'm not here to answer that call." They still have a fear as if the deployed spouse can jump on a plane tomorrow and come check on him or her.
WHAT MIGHT AN OUTSIDER NOTICE ABOUT A CHILD WHO IS ABUSED OR WITNESSES ABUSE?
Normally, you see two extremes: the withdrawn child, who doesn't respond or interact, is 'too good' because they don't want to cause any trouble, does everything you say, or is a loner. Or, the aggressive child who acts out and is very violent. It isn't the typical child's play of simulating TV wrestling moves, but when it becomes excessive or that's all this kid wants to do even after the other kids have tired of it. This may be a sign of abuse.
A battered spouse doesn't always have the motivation or energy to get up and make sure the kids are clean, fed, and have their homework done. So, a child's overall appearance may be a sign that something is going on. It may not necessarily be domestic violence, but could be neglect. If the parent regularly fails to show up to parent conferences when repeatedly requested to do, isn't involved, or constantly avoiding you or blowing you off when you need to talk with them about their child, then that would be a flag to me.
WHAT ARE SOME JUSTIFICATIONS AN ABUSER MIGHT GIVE HIS OR HER VICTIM?
You just make me crazy because you're constantly nagging me. -- I get it from my first sergeant, from my platoon sergeant, and now I have to come home and hear it from you. -- You're sitting at home all day. I'm out here fighting this war and dealing with this or that. Then, you want me to come home and do XYZ, and I'm tired. -- You spend too much money. -- So what if I have a drink or two and get drunk throughout the week? I'm an adult. -- If you would just leave me alone…would just understand…would just shut up…would just had let me have sex went I'd wanted to…we wouldn't be in this right now. -- That's what you need to do. Get a job.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF ABUSE ON THE VICTIM?
They are adjusting to the 'new normal' in their lives because they didn't plan for this or expect it to happen. They feel anxious, betrayed, depressed, embarrassed, judged, mad, upset. It's almost like the stages of grief. At some point you accept it, but it takes going through those other stages to get there. Also, getting out of bed takes effort and they don't trust anything or anybody.
MANY VICTIMS THINK THAT THE ABUSER WILL CHANGE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
The only person you are responsible for is yourself. You can encourage your abuser to get the help that he or she needs, but you can't put all your eggs in that basket because you're only responsible for yourself. You don't know what has that person wired the way they are. I think if you work on 'self', you'll be better able to accept what you can or cannot change. So often, people want to say "That's the problem. You need to fix that," when there's work that needs to be done on their self as well. Your abuser has to want to work on it actively (i.e. counseling, ASAP, anger management, stress management) and follow-through, not with lip-service. You can only change and control yourself.
I never encourage anyone to leave. I'm your number one fan. I will support you if you want to stay in your marriage and if you want to leave your marriage. If a victim asks me what they should do, I will let them know that it's up to them. Who am I to tell you to leave your spouse or stay with this guy/girl?
Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Allison Davis. The first part focuses on her work with sexual assault and the second deals with her work on domestic abuse.