The home is the most abusive setting in society, said a speaker at Brigham Young University's Women's Conference Thursday.
People are more likely to be abused by a family member than anyone else, said Anne Horton, assistant professor of social work at BYU."Today's family life is in crisis. We're all in this mess we call society," she said. Family violence is the mistreatment of one family member by another, whether it be physical, sexual, verbal or emotional.
"I do not believe there is such a thing in families as normal violence," she said. Parents need to look at the way they treat their children. Spankings aren't always the best form of discipline. Too many times the child forgets what he was disciplined for.
Parents who participate in abuse are models of violent behavior. "Children can be your advocates or they can be the violent creators and partners of tomorrow," Horton said.
"If you are physically abused, don't model this for others. If you don't change for yourself, at least change for your children," she said. The tendency to abuse, or be abused, is a learned behavior.
Horton estimated that during this century, 2 million LDS men and women have or will be abused. National statistics show that one in three women has suffered sexual abuse and one in four women has suffered physical abuse. One woman out of six has suffered both kinds, she said.
"The problem is that abusers and victims look just like everybody else."
Victims should not blame abusive treatment on their own shortcomings. "Righteousness has precious little to do with any abuse you suffer. As victims of sexual or physical violence, you were not sinful," Horton said.
"Cast off that dismal stereotype of passive LDS women. You should not live in pain and shame any longer."
Horton encouraged victims of abuse to seek help so they can triumph over it.
Surviving abuse means more than living through the event. "Survival means leaving forever that role of victim."
For perpetrators of abuse, the first point of change is recognizing signs of abusive behavior. Verbal abuse includes intimidation, backbiting, sarcasm, racism and humiliation. Putting someone on a guilt trip or playing martyr is one of the most unfair ways to hurt another's feelings, Horton said.
"These behaviors usually destroy the very essence of personhood."
Periann Parks, a therapist at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, said the public needs to dispel myths that abuse happens only among the uneducated and poor, or that the abused "made their bed and need to lie in it."
"When we turn away from the victims, we are abusing them as well," she said.