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Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Understanding "Separation Violence" and Solutions Making a Difference

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Understanding "Separation Violence" and Solutions Making a Difference

In observing Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is important to understand some trends that exist within the sphere, and to look at solutions making a difference.

Four and a half million women in the U.S alone have been threatened with a gun, and another 1 million have survived being shot at or shot, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

A lot of the time, women experience this from a family member or intimate partner — and in the U.S. specifically, 75 percent of these women who have tried to leave their relationships have been killed.

This particular phenomenon in domestic violence cases is known as "separation violence."

According to an article written by the Philadelphia Citizen, this is commonly seen when a woman leaves her spouse. The abuser then experiences emotions as a part of that separation process, which may include indifference, manipulating the victim through both anger and courting, defaming the woman, and finally renewing the anger and threats.

And there are a lot of risks when doing this, as seen in the stats above. Campaigns like #WhyIStayed, for example were created to advocate for women no matter if they stay, or go.

"It is important to respect their autonomy when those suffering abuse decide that it is safest for them to remain in the relationship," says Jill Engle, Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the Family Law Clinic at Penn State Law. She represents clients in domestic violence. "It is human nature for us to want to solve the problem and to do something quickly and cleanly, but ‘getting her to leave’ is not always the safest option for a victim."

To contribute to this, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says "abusers use guns to create an atmosphere of fear and control."

Researchers like Engle believe a solution to this is to humanize both victims and perpetrators. Concepts like hyper-masculinity and male privilege need to be looked into more in order to get to a root cause of domestic violence.

"Mental health intervention was something my client desperately wanted for her husband," says Engle in an interview with the Philadelphia Citizen. "She was afraid if he did not get help, he would kill her. She was right."

Tony Lapp is a co-director of Menergy, a domestic abuse treatment center providing counseling, anger management classes and batterer intervention services for abusive men. Based in Philadelphia, it's one of the oldest programs in the U.S.

"In cases of those who go to the extreme of separation violence, often the history and pattern of abuse is related to jealousy and possessiveness," Lapp said. "The goal becomes to push and reshape their imaging of what strength really is."

Intervention for domestic violence victims has been at the core of the organization, and it focuses on changing the idea of using dominance and overt displays of power to gain respect to see things differently. Particularly, addressing the impact of their actions on their partners and children.

Sixty-nine percent of physical and emotional abusers who complete the Menergy program do not relapse. And just in June, the Supreme Court ruled that any individual convicted of domestic abuse should be barred from owning or purchasing a gun under federal law.

Programs like this working alongside legislation and non-victim blaming advocacy like #WhyIStayed contribute to the many sides of domestic violence awareness that are helping to really change things.

To continue the conversation about domestic violence and violence against women, please join MAKER Salamishah Tillet for a live Twitter chat on Tuesday, October 11 from 2:30-3:30pm EST. Tweet questions to @MAKERSwomen and visit our #policyMAKERS election hub to learn more.

NEXT: The Supreme Court Just Ruled That Domestic Abusers Can Lose Their Rights to Gun Ownership »

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Photo Credit: Getty Images