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Domestic Violence

Identifying and Avoiding Possible Abuse

06/04/2004

Question:

My high school student told me her stepfather threatened her with a pair of scissors. She went to live with her grandmother for a week. Now she is back home. She said he cried and was sorry and she`s sure he won`t do it again and she will never be in the house alone with him and take the same precautions for her little sister.

I told her that he will be violent again unless he gets help. She will still stay mostly in the house and go to her grandmother`s when her mom is not at home. I would like to at least be able to give her a list of things to look out for, that might give her a chance to leave before the violence happens. Is there such a list?

Answer:

I appreciate your attention to this matter. I am not sure that equipping this young girl with strategies to avoid her stepfather or attempts to manage his behavior will suffice. Please consider consulting or making a formal referral to those agencies that deal with child abuse on a regular basis. Our primary responsibility is to protect children from harm, especially when you suspect abuse that may be occurring I am aware that it could prove to be difficult for many professionals involved with children, i.e., teachers, counselors, medical professionals, etc., to make this type of forecast. Her stepfather demonstrated behavior which appears volatile in nature--to threaten a child/adolescent with a pair of scissors is of concern. The fact that she is protective of her stepfather is normal; however, supporting her desire to maintain a reasonable distance from him may not be sufficient in this case. I think it may prove difficult for a child to learn ways of predicting adult behavior, just as women who are in battering relationships cannot always predict or control an abusive event. Over 60% of adult respondents in a particular study indicated that they never really felt they had control over the batterer`s behavior, so I doubt if this youngster will be able to do the same. The dynamics within the family system probably need further exploration by individuals trained in the area of child abuse. Therefore, I would strongly urge you to consult those agencies that deal with child abuse on a regular basis, such as Franklin County Children Services or Hamilton County Children Services.

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Response by:

Cathy   McDaniels-Wilson, PhD Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Department of Sociology
The Ohio State University