From – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 3, 1999
Teaching has come a long way in the 31 years since Linda Tooley first asked her students to crack open their textbooks. In that time, societal issues have encroached on the classroom, sometimes violently.
Among those encroachments are issues of child abuse and other types of family violence.
More and more, teachers are expected to be everything to everybody, Tooley says.
She would like to see more partnerships among schools, law enforcement officials and social services groups that deal with child abuse.
“We shouldn’t have to do it alone,” Tooley said.
Some help is on the way for teachers and others who are often on the front line in dealing with the early signs of abuse.
A program called “The Community Response to Family Violence: Ending the Silence, Keeping Hope Alive,” will be held here Oct.12.
Open to the public, the session is aimed at anyone in a position to take action, an organizer said.
The six sessions include such topics as the impact of violence on children; intervention options with the batterer; police response to family violence; abuse hot lines; and the mandatory reporting of suspected abuse.
Authorities in medicine, psychology, psychiatry, law enforcement, counseling and other disciplines will participate.
Judges Thomas J. Frawley and Thea Sherry, of St. Louis and St. Louis County family courts, will lead some discussions. About 280 people attended a similar program in April.
For the layman, intervening on behalf of the victims can be tricky, experts agree.
The victims are emotionally fragile. Batterers deny the abuse. Children are caught in the middle. There’s a reluctance to meddle in others’ affairs, said Frawley, one of the organizers of the program. Issues of confidentiality can snarl the situation,
People do understand what a problem abuse is, said Leigh Joy Carson, another organizer and a family law attorney in Clayton. “We’re trying to give people an idea of how they can make a difference. All of us need to be extending a hand.”
Sorting through allegations of domestic violence can be daunting even for the professional, said family therapist Tom Conran. And many professionals who deal with the issue — teachers, lawyers and members of the clergy — aren’t experienced enough to deal with it effectively, he said.
An observer must be able to discern the emotional and physical signs of abuse, including submissiveness by the victim and the controlling nature of the abuser. Conran referred to a spiral of violence that can include a honeymoon interlude, followed by periods of increasing tension.
In the case of an abused woman, the best thing we can do is believe her, Conran said. While some men can be victims, he said, the overwhelming majority are women. And what an abused woman needs immediately is a safe environment, he said.
Teachers aren’t alone in feeling out of their element on the issue of abuse. Clergy members also need help.
Priests often are not experts in dealing with domestic violence, even though they do consider it part of their pastoral mission, said the Rev. Edward Richard of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
The Rev. Richard J. Tillman of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church was ordained 34 years ago and has seen a need to keep up with the times.
He earned a master’s degree in social work from St. Louis University in 1971 and counsels parishioners on a variety of issues, including domestic violence. Priests refer the abused person to a host of agencies that provide counseling, such as Catholic Charities, or to shelters.
“Any minister or priest really has to be aware of community resources so you can make a referral,” Tillman said.
The program, held during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Student center at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, 3400 Pershall Road in Florissant. Registration starts at 1 p.m.
The program is free, but pre-registration is required. To register or for information, call Carson at 721-2422 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.