Is there generational domestic violence in your family? One woman is taking action in hopes of breaking the cycle

Many people who are abused become consistent victims or even abusers themselves

SAN ANTONIO - – It’s common for those who are abused to either continue to become consistent victims or even become abusers themselves. That’s why it’s crucial to stop the cycle before passing it on even further.

You may have heard the phrase “cycle of violence.” That means domestic violence that continues generation after generation.

It’s common for those who are abused to either continue to become consistent victims or even become abusers themselves.

“I was in a domestic violence relationship. It got really bad really quickly. I almost lost my life. One, my children almost lost their lives,” said Elizabeth Rejino.

When Rejino finally escaped, she began to learn about domestic violence and its vicious cycle.

“I have four little boys. To me, it’s so important to be able to break that cycle with them,” Rejino said.

Rejino did that by immediately putting them in counseling and getting a counselor herself.

“If I couldn’t recognize the triggers and if I couldn’t recognize what is unhealthy and what’s a red flag, and how am I supposed to carry it on and teach it to my kids?” she said.

She has learned that child abuse and domestic violence go hand in hand and that it doesn’t always pertain to physical violence.

“He wasn’t putting his hands on the kids, so to me, he wasn’t hurting the kids. But he did hurt the kids because they can hear it through the walls. When I was pregnant, he was abusing me,” Rejino said.

Rejino works hard to make sure her children are now learning how to handle stress and what healthy relationships look like.

“We are the product of everything that has been modeled to us,” said Family Violence Prevention Services CEO Marta Pelaez.

Pelaez said it’s crucial to understand domestic violence is not just physical. It can be:

  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Verbal
  • Financial
  • Sexual

Pelaez said all of those can become generational.

“If I grew up in a home where only the man handled the finances, then when I am married, I immediately believe that I am not allowed,” Pelaez said. “There is an automatic imbalance of control.”

So the answer, she said, is to look inward.

“What can we as parents do in our relationship that may be impacting children? What can we do to change some of these things before they create more harm?” Pelaez said.

Pelaez wants people to know they don’t have to do that work alone. There are programs, books, and support groups for both victims and abusers who want to break the cycle.

Family Violence Prevention Services offers a class called A Parent’s Journey, and Metro Health offers a Positive Parenting Program.

There is also a batterers intervention program called BIPP, for people who need to stop their own abusive behaviors.

“It’s never too late to move forward, and it’s never too late to change your parenting style. It’s never too late to open up those doors and be like, ‘You know what? We’re going to have healthy communication with each other,’” Rejino said.

Rejino wants the community and school systems to know they, too, play a part in teaching healthy relationships and reporting potentially dangerous ones.

For example, in September 2021, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 9, which sets out the guidelines for how school districts teach students about family violence, child abuse, sex trafficking, and teen dating violence.

Pelaez said the schools have the opportunity to teach what healthy relationships look like for kids who do not see them at home.

Rejino said she knows stopping the cycle in your own home can be difficult and painful, but she tells parents to give themselves some grace.

“Forgive yourself and say, ‘I didn’t know what I know now. I didn’t know that then.’ And to be able to move forward,” she said.

Rejino says the cycle of violence can be stopped because she’s doing it right now.

If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, there are many resources for you. Head to the KSAT Domestic Violence Resources Page for a full list.

You can call the Family Violence Prevention Services hotline (210) 733-8810. The organization also runs the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter.

You can also call Bexar County Justice Center at (210) 633-0100.

You can always call or text 988 to reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline center.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.