Most likely this is me, but in case anyone’s wondering why I’m not posting articles about recent domestic violence-related homicides it’s because I feel like I don’t have anything new to say or share that I haven’t already written about at length. From where I sit there’s absolutely nothing new or different about any of them: all duplicative variations of the same theme. The names of the victims, abuser-murderers, family members, methods of killing along with geographic-related details change but otherwise it’s just the tragic same ol’ same ol’. Sounds offensively callous, doesn’t it? I hope it does because that’s really the only new thing I can offer and here’s what I mean:
In every “shocking and surprising” case, there were red flags waving and warning signs all over the place; many of the times the victims themselves were adrenalin-pumping cognizant of the real danger they were in and than there were those who were in the situation so deeply they never saw it coming BUT in both instances, a third party’s instincts was either set-off, ignored or rationalized away.
For those victims who “never saw it coming” please don’t think that I’m victim-blaming because there’s a lot that goes into that “blindness”. One way to understand that would be to imagine if you were in and surrounded by water as far as the eye could see – how would you know if you’re in a puddle, a pond or an ocean? Without the benefit of a viewpoint from land (being OUT of the water/out of the situation aka out of the abusive relationship) you wouldn’t be able to tell – all you’d be aware of is the water you’re treading in.
Let’s take it a step further though: suppose you believed you were treading water in a pond and someone frantically tosses you a Life Ring – are you going to latch on to the life-saving device and let the lunatic pull you towards him/her to safety or are you going to swim away from the crazy person whose shouting that a shark’s coming? Victims of domestic violence have to believe, understand and accept that they are victims before they can do anything about or are willing to accept help for their situations. How hard can that possibly be? Imagine this:
You’re in a relationship with someone you love, you have a life together, you may even have children together. Your life is made up of stuff that everyone else has: there may be work (out-of-home, house or school), there are schedules and appointments to keep, friends and family to see, weekends to live for and rules to follow - but these “rules” you view more like accommodations or courtesies that keep your partner content so while perhaps bothersome or disruptive at times, it’s a small price to pay for the relationship and situation that is your life.
Every marriage/relationship has their problems (everyone knows that!) and the major problem in yours is your partner’s temper or violence when he’s angry (and that problem is easier to put up with/understand if he drinks, uses drugs, has a horrible boss or obnoxious ranking officer, had a rough childhood, etc.)
- Has he ever hit you? Perhaps once (or never) BUT he apologized, has never done it again AND that was years ago when (fill in the excuse).
- Do you two fight? All the time BUT what couple doesn’t AND he’s not the one who starts it all of the time. Most of the time I’ve provoked him because I wouldn’t let something (like flirting, an affair, drug use, financial concerns) go.
- Has he ever threatened you? Yea, BUT that’s only after I haven’t done something or did something again that he told me not to so it is my fault.
- Has he ever frightened you? When he’s angry who wouldn’t be afraid of him? Look at his size and look at mine – think I’m NOT going to be afraid? Besides, I know what he’s capable of – I’ve seen it. Better and easier to just not get him mad to begin with.
- Ever feel like he treats you like property? He’s a traditional guy; it’s in his culture; he’s the breadwinner so I can’t complain; a wife is supposed to be subservient to her husband; it’s a woman’s lot; etc. etc.
- Has he ever forced you to have sex when you didn’t want it? Yea, but he’s a guy – he has urges; it’s in his biology – he can’t help himself; I am his wife and it’s a wife’s duty; if I say no he’ll just find someone who’ll say yes; I was asleep so I didn’t get the chance to say no.
- He treats you like garbage. You just don’t know him; he’s different at home; he’s uncomfortable around other people; he didn’t mean it; he was just joking around…
The responses to the concerns above are typical of victims who don’t know they are one yet. How successful do you think you’d be in convincing this woman:
- Hitting you, even once, is physical abuse.
- Forced sex is not love-making; it’s sexual assault or (spousal) rape.
- Embarrassing you, humiliating you, making you feel like garbage is emotional abuse.
- Treating you like property, instead of equally, is his assertion of male privilege.
- Threats and fear do not belong in any mature, healthy love-based relationship.
Think these facts will be good enough to make her pack up and leave with her kids, go to a shelter, file a protection order then file for divorce and custody? (How enticing does all that even sound?)
If someone told you “This is what I see” would you accept that person’s view and abandon your own view just on that person's say-so? Would you automatically accept that you're a victim of DV if the person informing you that you are one is your sister, best friend, therapist, the police captain, a DV expert or his sister? The only thing you’ll accomplish by “educating” this woman about the domestic violence she’s in will be the same result as throwing the Life Ring into the pond: she’s going to swim away far and fast from the crazy person whose telling her that a shark’s coming when she doesn't see it herself AND she "knows" she's in freshwater.
Instead of the thanks and gratitude you’re owed for pointing out the facts the response she’ll give you may have you walking away thinking, “Fine, that’s the way you want to be about it? Stay with him, keep living in ‘la la land’ – don’t say I didn’t try to help you. You wind up dead, it’s your own fault”.
Walking away from a DV victim and withdrawing support for her is exactly what the abuser wants you to do because you’ll be assisting him in isolating her – with your voice gone his voice will only get stronger and if she confides in him about what you’ve said, this is likely how he’ll console her: “Wow, I’m so sorry your friend turned out to be such a bad-stabbing, little *itch; you don’t need friends like her, only causing trouble – she’s probably just jealous of what we have. Don’t let it get to you.”
So here’s the bottom-line: do you want to be a domestic violence victim (with all the “rights, protections and privileges” thereof – I’m being sarcastic) OR do you want to stay in a less-than-perfect committed relationship with the father of your children and try to make it work?
No one ever wants to be a victim of domestic violence EXCEPT for abusers who want the whole world to know how they’ve been victimized by a crazy, mentally unstable, sexually promiscuous (or lesbian) woman who isn’t a fit mother either.
The only way a DV victim comes to understand that she is one is when she realizes it for herself, which frequently occurs when:
- She comes to in the hospital
- One or more of her children are targeted by the abuser and she sees the effects (psychologically, physically or sexually)
- One or more of her children start behaving exactly like the abuser and/or treats her how the abuser does
- Child Protective Services becomes involved because of the above
Once the DV victim realizes she is one, she also realizes the following:
- She’s been living a lie and fooling herself
- Her life, relationship/marriage is a sham
- He doesn’t love her – the “love” he’s professed all along is not real love and quite frankly, she doesn’t even know what to call what he says he “feels” for her – Possession? Obligation? Habit?
- And the worst one of all: Her children have paid the price for her “selfishness” (keeping the family together)
More than any of them, that last one will torment her for years.
Now that she finally sees the truth, she has some immediate tasks to consider that focus on what she has to do next: your basics – food, clothing, shelter for herself and her children – employment, medical needs, transportation, childcare, all while maintaining school schedules and keeping it emotionally together so she doesn’t freak the kids out. Hopefully she’ll have some time to pull this all together before leaving but unfortunately in more instances than not, she has to go and she has to go NOW which means she needs to do something about all of these things at the same time. Then curveball: once she’s broken the “cardinal rule” of DV (“You will not leave me”) her life is in danger and depending on how angry he is, her children’s lives may be at-risk as well.
Having to flee an abuser is like tossing gasoline on a fire – you know the fireball is going to come so you can only hope to God that you’re quick enough to get out of the way and not get burned. This is when a victim will avail herself to help – be it from a friend or family member, the police, a DV service provider or court – but then despite the level of danger, lethality and/or evidence, the following erroneous equation begins to take form and becomes widely accepted:
Last physical instance of abuse + No access to/time away from the abuser = Increased safety for victim and decreased risk for children
Why do people (from the community to the courthouse) think DV will simply go away, end or age-out with the passage of time and space when THOUSANDS of women and children are stalked, injured and/or killed each year by abusers they “successfully escaped” from? The correct equation stands:
No access to/time away from the victim PLUS The abuser’s unabated, unresolved rage MINUS Abuser supervision and third party accountability EQUALS Nothing good/Poor outcomes for victim and children
but no one, from the community to the courthouse, wants to accept that one – everyone “feels better” accepting the erroneous equation (kinda like the victim who’d rather see “husband and father” than “abuser”).
Doesn’t the truth count for anything anymore? Why won’t people learn from their mistakes and from the mistakes of others? Did the recent death of the Stay family in Texas http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/domestic-violence-guns-bills-texas-haskell-stay-murder really have to happen after what happened to Donna Carter http://www.foxnews.com/us/2009/09/07/domestic-dispute-led-louisiana-murder-suicide-father-says/ and her family or to Jessica Lenahan’s children? http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gonzales-vs-castle-rock/
Again, when looking at these cases, look beyond the gruesome details and the expressions of “shock and surprise” – look at the patterns and factors leading up to the killings, the signs that were ignored, how many professionals and/or people in positions of authority were offensively callous towards the victim-survivor before the homicides and most importantly, look at how long each homicide occurred after the last instance of physical abuse.
Not to beat a dead horse but (what the heck, why not? Let’s make sure it’s really, REALLY dead!) these cases and more http://dastardlydads.blogspot.com/ stand as testimony as to why things like Joint Custody, Shared Parenting, Co-Parenting and “Parental Parity” are potentially lethal in DV-related cases.
Power and Control is the core of domestic violence and look where we are with that: DV doesn’t end until the abuser decides its over – I say it’s time to end the abusers' reign.