Enigma: Dynamics of domestic violence misunderstood

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Mary Niemela, director of the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter, speaks on domestic violence issues Tuesday at the Portage Lake District Library.

HOUGHTON — Domestic violence can be difficult to understand but it continues to be a daily struggle for men and women across the United States.

“Domestic violence is a learned behavior. It’s passed on from generation to generation. Very rarely is it considered a mental health issue,” said Mary Niemela, director of the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter.

On Tuesday, Niemela spoke about the dynamics of domestic violence situations at the Portage Lake District Library.

Of reported domestic abuse, 95 percent is committed against women. The public is generally confused by domestic violence situations, Niemela said.

There are many reasons why a victim won’t leave their abuser. Primarily, Niemela points to a combination of love and fear.

“It’s really hard to understand how somebody can fear and love somebody at the same time, but she loves the person but fears the behavior,” Niemela said.

Often the abuse is not known by friends or family, with the abuser concealing the behavior. To further complicate the situation, not all abuse is physical. Emotional, verbal and sexual abuse can be equally damaging but difficult to report, Niemela said.

It is estimated that more than half of those raised in homes with domestic violence will go on to repeat the cycle as abusers or victims.

At the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter, the goal is to provide resources, an out or just a place to get away and think.

“Our first concern is safety and shelter. We have food. We have clothing. We have all kinds of things in case somebody just shows up on our door,” Niemela said.

The shelter is open day and night and can be reached 24 hours at the crisis line 906-337-5623.

There is no charge for any of the services provided at the shelter, Niemela stressed.