Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery announced earlier this month, she will distribute over $5 million in federal funds to 69 domestic violence programs across the state. Last year 130,000 victims of domestic violence sought help from these programs. But people are still waging a private war, as only half of all cases are thought to be reported. As 90.3's Tarice Sims reports, many victims don't even realize they're abused because they aren't being physically attacked, and they often need to be convinced to seek help.
Tarice Sims- In the Song "Behind the Walls" Cleveland native Tracy Chapman shares the story of a neighbor being victimized by her abuser.
Chapman herself is one of millions of women who've been abused as children or adults or both. Although not all cases are physical - in some cases, emotional isolation and humiliation replace a stern violent hand. Laura Lieby knows all too well the pain of emotional and mental abuse. Now an active participant in the YWCA domestic violence program, Lieby says she wishes she'd known the warning signs before she met her soon to be ex-husband ten years ago.
Laura Lieby- He was very controlling, he yelled and screamed a lot, he was very controlling - I wasn't allowed to do things. I got pregnant with his first baby, our first baby together, and I wasn't allowed to drive anywhere. He would always take me somewhere, treated my kids, my two daughters, real bad from a previous marriage, especially the oldest one. He was very abusive. He never hit though, he did push me a couple times after the baby was born but I didn't think anything of it - but I should have.
TS- Leiby says the relationship with her husband was always volatile and she didn't see anything wrong with that. It wasn't until she got counseling from the Y that she realized she'd fallen into a cycle of abuse.
LL- You know my dad was abusive. Emotional. Not as bad toward the kids, you know, not us - my sister and I - but towards my mom. So that's when I realized, hey, my dad's like this too, and that's how I was raised and I thought it was normal and it's not.
TS- The YWCA has several programs to help victims realize they are victims and also help them cope once they decide to seek a normal life and loving relationships. Bonnie Morris, is the program director for the YWCA. She says many of the people she counsels need to be convinced that emotional abuse is as unacceptable as physical abuse.
Bonnie Morris- I get, you know 'I don't really know what's wrong, I just don't feel good about the relationship, he tells me I'm stupid, he tells me I'm dumb, she tells me that I'm worthless and I don't really think I'm being abused but,' and we go on from there. My response to that generally is, 'I believe verbal abuse to be worse than physical abuse. The outside wounds heal - the other scars the soul and those are the hardest ones to see and the hardest ones to heal.'
TS- Morris says admitting you've been a victim of abuse is just the first step. As victims work through the healing process they may grieve the loss of their relationships. And, often the hurt victims feel from being mistreated turns into anger as in Laura Lieby's case. Lieby sees herself becoming what she hates the most, a volatile person.
LL- I'm having a hard time. I have a lot of anger now, I yell and scream a lot because that's I have a lot of anger. Once he's out of the home, I'm O.K. you know when I'm not home, I'm fine, you know, cause I'm real happy outside of the home, but once I go inside the home, it's really, really hard to deal with.
TS- In addition to one on one counseling Lieby attends classes at the Y for both victims and batterers. On this weekday evening, about 20 men and women, including Lieby, are getting a lesson in anger regulation. Bonnie Morris says there's a difference between anger regulation and anger management.
BM- Anger management is more toward when you start to feel angry find other alternatives to deal with the anger. Go jogging, go out and shoot some hoops, clean the kitchen. But you still have the original issue in this program we deal specifically with what's causing the anger the anger comes from hurt first.
TS- Experts say education and counseling are needed not only for the adults within an abusive household. Children can be equally victimized by witnessing such a relationship. Dr. James Medling is a Clinical Psychologist in Cleveland.
James Medling- Often times we do include the children. They are often in earshot of the abuse or they hear things or they can see things that happened to mom or dad the night before. And when it's appropriate certainly family counseling is often made available.
TS- Through the Attorney General's office, funds are also being made available for kids therapy. They continue to financially support programs that not only help victims realize they victims but also help them in the healing process. Attorney General Betty Montgomery is a champion of The Children Who Witness Violence Program which originated in Cuyahoga County. A portion of the federal and state dollars Montgomery is distributing will be used to help the program reach out to children's hospitals throughout the state. In Cleveland, Tarice Sims, 90.3 FM.