By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools for Havre Daily News
The holidays are upon us, a time of family reunions, parties, shopping and joy. For some, though, the holidays create a set of conditions that may culminate in physical, emotional or financial abuse.
It is important to remember that holidays don't cause family violence. Stress doesn't cause family violence. These factors only increase the likelihood of family abuse or violence in families already at risk or where violence has already occurred.
Exactly what is family abuse or violence? According to the Pennsylvania Alliance for Children and Families, a person may be a victim of family violence if they are subject to any of the following:
Physical abuse: inflicting or threatening to inflict physical pain or injury or depriving someone of a basic need.
Emotional abuse: name-calling, intimidation, threats or other actions or words that cause fear, anguish or distress.
Sexual abuse: rape, unwanted touching, forcing sexual acts, refusing to practice safe sex;
Financial exploitation: stealing, misusing or concealing money or other funds, forcing a change in beneficiary in a will or insurance policy.
Neglect: refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder or child;
Abandonment: the desertion of a vulnerable person by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Property abuse: stealing or destroying personal belongings, hurting pets, withholding basic needs such as food and clothing.
As a community, what can we do to help those caught in this terrible situation? The following five R's can make a difference if we all practice them.
Reach out. Be there to listen. Let them know that they have a right to a safe and healthy family. Let them know there are places to go for help and get them connected. The HRDC Crisis Line phone number is 265-6262 and is available 24 hours a day.
Raise the issue. Educate yourself and others so we can help prevent family violence.
Remember the risk factors like family stress and substance abuse.
Recognize the warning signs that a child, family member or neighbor may be in trouble. For more information on warning signs, go online to www.alliancepa.org/familyviolence.html.
Report suspected abuse and neglect.
Each of us can be a force in changing and ending the cycle of abuse and violence. Get to know your neighbor, become personally involved with them and include them in your family activities. Be a role model; show by example that there is a better way to communicate than through violence. Hold violent adults accountable for their behavior and actions and their impact on others.
As surely as this holiday season is a time of hope and renewal and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves, it can become a time of hope and rewewal for families caught in the terrible cycle of abuse and violence, especially if, as a community or individual, we reach out to help.
For more information on recognizing and preventing domestic violence, contact Lin Nelson at the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.