David Pisarra

It’s almost over, just a few more days and we can forget about it for another 11months. Yep, Domestic Violence Awareness Month is coming to an end and with that, for most people the topic will fade into the background. Occasionally it will make a front page headline when some celebrity is either killed by a lover, or kills a lover, but for the most part the topic is just not your idle chatter.

For those of us that work in the industry, whether on the victim side as a service provider like Valley Oasis in Lancaster or Haven Hills in Canoga Park, or on the legal side where I’m headed to court to either defend a perpetrator or help a victim, it’s a daily topic. We look at the causes of it, ways to reduce it, how to help people heal from it and then we get burned out on it.

Caregiver burnout is a huge issue that is often overlooked in the world. Whether it’s as a social worker who has a huge caseload of needy victims that are trying to rebuild their lives, or an administrator who is constantly battling for resources from government budgets and grant, the constant stress of trying to help wears people down. I see it in the caseworkers who take on a single response to their cases and see the world in a victim/perpetrator way and then make grand pronouncements about the sources and causes of domestic violence.

I know this caregiver burnout well, because I battle it in my life. As a divorce lawyer who fights for fathers where the system appears to be set up to protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, it becomes easy to start seeing everyone as one or the other. But the truth is that it rarely is that simple. Family dynamics, family histories, temporary situations and biochemical imbalances, along with hidden agendas, all come in to play when we start to unpack the family. I’ve spent years seeing the worst in people, on both sides of the case, and in both sides of the courtroom frankly.

Many a divorce lawyer doesn’t help the family towards a “conscious uncoupling” as one famous couple put it. Oftentimes the lawyers can increase the rancor, either consciously or unconsciously, based on their own responses to the situation and their motivations for “winning” and for being paid. I wish I had a $100 for every “pitbull” lawyer I had to fight in court over things that I knew they were doing solely to increase their fees – I’d have a vacation home somewhere!

The fact that there is so much anger and hurt, rancor and recrimination around the topic of domestic violence is what often prevents us from finding solutions and preventing it. As we take sides and become dug in to our foxholes, in order to survive the battles, we lose sight of the intrinsic humanity of the other side. It happens in war, it happens in litigation and it certainly happens in domestic violence – but it’s not helpful.

We can make progress in reducing the incidence of domestic violence – the laudable but unrealistic goal of putting an end to it forever makes for a great fundraising campaign but sets us up for false expectations. Rather than try to eliminate something that is so intrinsic to our human nature, we would be better off if we could accept that the causes of it are multifaceted and educate people on its negative impact on themselves and their children. I firmly believe that education and compassion will be the long term keys to reducing the rate of domestic violence.

I don’t believe we will ever rid our society of domestic violence, and the fact that no society on earth, throughout history, has ever done will leads me to believe that I am correct. Some societies do better than others in reducing the rate of domestic violence, and we can learn from them, but no society has ever eliminated it. I think that education and compassion are the keys because in my own experience of 20 years in the trenches, when I was most burned out, as I learned more, and found new sources of compassion, my burnout lessened, which taught me that there is a way out.

So while this is the end of this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness month, hopefully I’ve taught someone, something, that helps them stop, prevent or manage the domestic violence in their life.

I’ll be back again next October with new insights on domestic violence awareness.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra