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October 10, 2013

Boehnlein explains how abuse begins and evolves

By Hannah Corcoran


Everyone’s heard the elementary school saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” That schoolyard slogan is the ultimate lie, said Tim Boehnlein, of Cleveland’s Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center.

In an event coordinated by Cleveland State University’s Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center, Boehnlein spoke to the Cleveland State community on Thursday Oct. 3, at noon in the Main Classroom Auditorium.

Around 50 students and faculty members gathered in the auditorium to listen to Boehnlein share his expertise and advice on relationships and abuse.
His presentation, including a PowerPoint, audio and videos, discussed the myths of dating, domestic violence and abuse.

He discussed how abuse begins and evolves. Abuse always starts with emotional/verbal abuse. Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual. Violence comes later as the relationship matures. Violence between two people who say they care about each other is classified as domestic violence, according to Boehnlein.

“Violence works,” Boehnlein said. “It’s an extremely effective tool. That’s why we have so much of it in our society.”

Violence is used to gain power and control, according to Boehnlein. The law defines domestic violence as knowingly causing or attempting to cause harm, recklessly causing harm, and threats of imminent physical harm.

Verbal abuse is more difficult to detect because it is harder to prove and highly psychological.

The speaker presented startling figures based on a survey of college students done by Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc. From those surveyed, 43 percent of dating college women reported some form of abuse, being physical, sexual, verbal or controlling abuse. Of the college women, 22 percent reported physical or sexual abuse or threats of violence, while 52 percent of these women reported knowing a friend who has experienced some form of abuse. More than half of college students who reported being in an abusive relationship said it happened during college, according to the survey.

Boehnlein noted that he mostly works with females who have been hurt by males. However, he has worked with both female and male perpetrators.

Of all reported cases, 95 percent are from men harming women.

“Male abuse does occur as well, but it is underreported,” said Boehnlein.

He shared the story of parent’s Jim and Else Croucher, who lost their 18-year-old daughter, Tina, after her abusive ex-boyfriend shot her in the head. The Crouchers started “the Tina Project” where they went to high schools all over the country to speak to students and spread awareness on violence and abuse in relationships.

The Tina Croucher Act was passed in Ohio in February of 2010. The law requires school districts to implement dating violence policies, early education about the issue from grades 7-12, and that those who work at middle schools and high schools have in-service training on relationship violence.

Attendees sat in somber silence after the video of the Crouchers was shown.
Boehnlein went on to stress the characteristics of healthy relationships and those of unhealthy relationships.

The problem is that “victims fall in love and then generate hope,” said Boehnlein.
This is why victims stay in abusive relationships. However, leaving an abusive relationship is difficult for various reasons. It is a process due to fear and safety issues.

“Its not just as easy as leaving…it’s very complicated,” Boehnlein said.

Abusers try to maintain power and control in the relationship, but jealousy is the number one characteristic of perpetrators in domestic violence situations.

“Jealousy is not love,” he said.

The extremely jealous trait in Cleveland woman Johanna Orozco’s abusive ex-boyfriend changed her life forever when he shot her and caused serious damage to her mouth and jaw, when she was 18 years old. After reconstructive surgeries, she lives to tell her story today and provide hope for young women facing what she did when she was in high school.

Some members of the audience gasped after seeing pictures of Orozco’s face after she was shot and after listening to the audio of her speaking at her ex-boyfriend’s trial.

Boehnlein also presented the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

Those who grew up in abusive households are more likely to find abuse and violence in relationships “normal,” according to Boehnlein.

The abuser believes that violence is either rational or justified in some way.

Boehnlein ended the presentation by asking the audience what the necessary aspects of a healthy relationship are. They yelled out “trust” first. Then, “respect, communication, love.” The last one was not as obvious.

“Hope,” Boehnlein assisted. “There are people that will love you...don’t settle.”