COUNSELLOR’S CORNER: Domestic Violence

Junko MifuneJapanese Social Services (JSS) is asked to consult on a wide range of problems, including Domestic Violence (referred as DV), some of which involve life and death situations. JSS’s two counsellors have been involved in such issues for many years, and each issue needs a lot of time, effort and resources to try to resolve.
Junko Mifune, one of the counsellors, will contribute a series of articles addressing various DV issues from a professional point of view in the next four issues of the JSS Online Newsletter.
In the first article, she’ll talk about “The reasons for DV and how to properly deal with them.”
The second article in May 2015 will talk about “Effects of the DV on children”, the third article in August 2015 is about “separation”, and the fourth in November 2015 will address “divorce”. (Notes from Editorial Dept.)
Japanese Social Services (JSS) deals with a variety of cases. Among them, a significant number concern Domestic Violence (DV). DV is an act of violence committed in intimate relationships and is not limited to marital relationships. It applies equally to common-law relationships as well as same-sex relationships. The gender of partners is not at issue. Moreover, DV includes abuse by ex-husbands or ex-partners even after they are divorced or have terminated the relationship. In this article, I would like to write about: why DV occurs; what types of behaviours are considered DV; and what you should do when you know someone who may be experiencing DV.
In 2014, JSS had 55 DV related cases. The overall number of such cases has been consistent over the last few years. However, we have observed an increase in DV related cases that require long-term and continuous support. The majority of our clients in DV cases are Japanese women with permanent resident status in Canada. Recent cases however, appear to indicate a trend towards diversification in this regard. We now have Japanese women without permanent resident status becoming victims of DV. Also, we have a female Japanese national and a male Japanese national being charged with DV as abusers.
In addition, we have observed an increase in cases where Japanese women with working holiday visas become pregnant and give birth. Experiencing DV by their Canadian partners, they then seek refuge in family shelters. In such cases, the clients, lacking permanent resident status in Canada, face challenges of not having health insurance coverage and not being able to access services from the government or non-profit agencies. Women in this situation can face further challenges of being unable to return to Japan with their children since the Japanese government ratified the Hague Convention in April of 2014.
According to the 2009 census of Statistics Canada, over 40,000 arrests result from DV each year but only 22% of all incidents are reported to the police. Therefore the real number can be expected to be much higher. The Japanese Supreme Public Prosecutors Office indicated that in 2014, the highest ever number of approximately 50,000 DV cases were reported and charges were laid in 3,323 of them. The high rate of reporting can be due to the term DV being well recognized and the awareness of the fact that DV is a crime and is occurring rather frequently. Finally, the increased rate in reporting may also be attributed to the signing and revision of Japan’s Protection Laws of DV Survivors in 2014.
When does a home or intimate relationship cease to provide the safety and security that is expected of it? Rarely do women resort to DV against men. According to the report of the Japanese Cabinet Gender Equality Bureau, women experience violence against them more often than men. They feel that their life is in danger more, and suffer injuries requiring medical attention more frequently than men. Physical, sexual and psychological violence overlapped in most of these cases. These tendencies also apply to DV cases handled by JSS. Therefore I would like to focus on DV by men against women in this article.
Why is violence against women by men an issue? Men are usually in a superior position to women, physically because of their size and strength, and economically because they tend to have higher incomes. Such positions can be exercised as power and be abused to control women. Regardless of their age, educational level, occupation or cultural background men can resort to DV. The abusers often justify their behaviour by making statements such as “you make me do this” or “because you don’t obey me.” However, the responsibility of resorting to violence is always on the abuser. Drinking or stress may trigger violence but it is never the cause. DV is caused by the abuser’s choice of perspective and behaviour. Experiencing violence by parents or friends or being physically bullied while growing up can influence an individual later in choosing to resort to violent behaviour. However, not all individuals with such life histories do so.
DV can be classified as follows:
❖ “Physical Abuse”: hitting, kicking, dragging around, shoving, choking
❖ “Psychological Abuse”: repeating behaviours such as ignoring, shouting, throwing or breaking things, closely monitoring victim’s contacts with others, threatening to commit suicide when unable to get his own way, abusing pets
❖ “Verbal Abuse”: yelling, putting down, constantly criticizing, forcing opinions on victim
❖ “Sexual Abuse”: refusing to cooperate with contraception, forcing to engage in sexual acts
❖ “Economic Abuse”: refusing to provide living expenses, taking money away, forcing to quit work;
❖ “Social Isolation”: preventing from going out, monitoring movements closely, not cooperating with application for immigration, refusing to support efforts being made to adjust to a new environment (e.g., improving English in case of Canada), threatening by saying “if you leave me, you will be caught by the police, or you will lose your permanent resident status or residence permit,” not respecting victim’s ethnic or racial background in denying her character
❖ “Abuse using children”: not allowing victim to see her children, putting victim down for children’s behaviours.
Violence often overlaps, and the following 3 characteristics are shared:
➢ Violence generates fear in victim or survivor.
➢ Violence robs the sense of safety, confidence, and freedom from victim or survivor.
➢ Violence is used to control victim or survivor.
DV follows a cycle consisting of a “Build-up period” → “Explosion period” and → “Steady period”. The “Steady period” is the so-called “Honeymoon period” when the abuser becomes gentle after the violence of “Explosion period.” This cycle is repeated and although there are individual variations, it usually increases in frequency and the intensity of violence escalates as time progresses. It is also noted that pregnancy of women can often start DV, and violence escalates when the women attempt to leave the abusive relationship. (e.g., try to leave home, commence divorce proceedings, find new relationships, etc.) Please refer to Project Blue Sky featured on the JSS website, below, for more information on DV.
JSS and other organizations listed below provide substantial support to victims and survivors of DV. These include assistance in developing safety plans for leaving abusive relationships, providing emotional support and necessary information, working closely with other networking agencies to facilitate women’s transition to a safe setting. If you know of anyone who may be in an abusive relationship, please let her know about the supporting organizations listed below, including JSS, and that they are there to help her. A person in such a situation may hesitate to seek help. You can contact these supporting agencies to find out their service hours on behalf of the victim and encourage her to seek help by letting her know that she is not the one causing DV.
We recommend not confronting the abuser directly or talking to her family, relatives or the police without informing her as doing so can often make matters worse. When a woman is in a prolonged period of abusive relationship, she will begin to believe what the abuser has constantly repeated to her. (e.g., “you can’t do anything without me,” etc.) As a result, her self-esteem and confidence become so eroded that she is unable to take any action in helping herself to leave the abusive relationship. In such cases, when the victim or survivor becomes aware of the fact that she is in an abusive relationship and is being supported by those around her and the professional organizations, it can be said that she has taken an important step forward to a new life without the fear of DV.
Police: 911
(Non-emergency 416-808-2222)
Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 416-863-0511 (Toll Free: 1-866-863-0511)
Mobile: #SAFE(#7233)
Support services offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide crisis counselling, referrals to legal services and shelters, and safety planning.
Community Information Toronto: 211
Social services information in Toronto
The 519 Anti-Violence Program: 416-392-6874
Support services to DV survivors/victims of lesbian, gay , bisexual, trans-gender & sexual, inter-sexual.
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic: 416-329-9149
Legal support and counselling to DV survivors/victims
Japanese Social Service : 416-385-9200
Project Blue Sky: