I am not normally a “statistical” sort of guy, but many hundreds of thousands of women are physically abused by their spouses or current or former intimate partners every year. Of those, thousands are seriously injured. Of those, several hundreds eventually find their way to the refrigerated slabs of the medical examiner’s office for autopsy as murder victims.
Nearly thirty percent of all female homicide victims were killed by their husbands, former husbands, boyfriends or former boyfriends. That is a grim figure andonly a blithering idiot would comment: “But that’s still less than half!”What’s more troubling to me is the number of instances in which family members or close friends knew of or suspected the problems the victim was having, yet did nothing. One of the grim realities of these situations is the nearly criminal impotence the justice system displays in offering remedies for women and girls who are involved in such mortally dangerous relationships. We should do better!
No, I’m not suggesting any government office or program can end, or for that matter significantly reduce the incidence of violent crime against women by current or former partners. But what really frosts my bottom are the laws and prosecutors in countless jurisdictions around the country that make it next to impossible for the potential victim to take any positive steps to thwart a potential future attack against them! The laws merely serve to regulate the behavior of the law abiding victim, even in the face of insurmountable statistical evidence that the anti-social behavior of the monster will go on unabated until he’s jailed for a serious assault or the murder of said victim! Can I make it any clearer than that? It’s as if our judges and legislators surrender common sense as part of their job description.
So, how do you recognize the “Handsome Prince” who might revert back to a frog…or worse, a poisonous snake? The following are some behaviors that might serve as a red flag to a friend or family member who suspects things aren’t perfect in another’s relationship.
-You observe her husband or boyfriend insult her openly or treat her disrespectfully when others are present and she offers no defense or meekly submits.
-He appears jealous when she talks to other men/boys, even when the situation is totally innocent and no reasonable person would consider it flirting.
-She often apologizes for her husband/boyfriend’s behavior and makes excuses for his conduct.
-She often has to cancel plans on short notice and her reasons don’t seem honest or straightforward.
-You overhear her having to explain in a placating tone to her husband/boyfriend where she has been and whom she has been with and she receives numerous calls from him that seem like he’s checking up on her.
-You observe him losing his temper and becoming physically intimidating, sometimes breaking things, throwing things or striking things when he’s mad.
-She seems unduly worried about causing him to get angry or upset.
-She alters her lifestyle to the point where she foregoes things that used to be important to her, in particular, spending time with good friends and doing “girl’s night out” activities.
-She is becoming increasingly isolated; perhaps her weight/appearance, or work habits/grades have changed significantly.
-She has injuries or bruises that she makes simple excuses for, or the explanations she gives don’t make sense.
So, you suspect a friend or family member is involved in an abusive relationship and you don’t know what to do? There is little advice I can offer that wouldn’t quickly pass from my area of expertise into the realm of that of the legal profession. I’m not a lawyer so I must be cautious here. However, as I stated before, the only safe recourse an abused person has is to quickly accept their situation as being out of control, and to seek immediate assistance.
Remember, I said: “Out of control,” but I didn’t say “Out of their control!” The victim has a great deal of control, but by virtue of having a personality that allows one to become a victim of a dominant and destructive personality in the first place, such control is nearly impossible for the victim to realize or assert. That’s where friends and family members come into the picture. The victim needs to know that there is a support mechanism in place to offer them a safe alternative to the abusive environment they are embroiled in. This is not always easy for a friend or family member, nor is it always prudent if the abusive partner is one of a handful of criminal personalities who would consider doing serious violence without regard to their own future. These types are thankfully, fairly rare. The majority of abusers, when faced with a determined, serious and powerful challenge to their control, will go elsewhere. It would be of benefit to society if their behavior was identified and reported, so future partners might have an inkling of what they are getting into. Yes, we want the abuse to stop, but most people also want to protect others from the dangers they themselves faced. That is; however, a personal decision.
Is there hope for an abusive relationship if the victim can get help for their abuser? I’m not a marriage counseling. My aim is safety and security. My experience tells me that the success rate is probably low enough that one might have a better chance of winning the lottery. Maybe it’s just me, but if someone told me I’d have a really decent chance of winning the lottery in ten years, but in the mean time I’d have to take a beating once a week until the numbers came my way, I’d have to demur. At the same time, as a former police officer, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve observed a victim of domestic violence recount all the reasons they were afraid of their partner, yet they would resist any suggestion that the perpetrator of their assault was irredeemable; or that the relationship itself was unsalvageable; or that they or their friends and family members were at great personal risk because of their weakness.
Yes, I said “their” weakness. No, I’m not blaming them for their abuse and I understand that fear is a powerful oppressor, but I want fear to be a powerful motivator! If anyone believes for one minute that a domestic “monster” is going to moderate his behavior over the long term if the victim meekly submits, then they are destined for a long life of abject misery, or an all-to-early grave. It could go either way. If children are involved, the stakes grow exponentially. Not only are the children exposed to possible violence, but psychologically they stand a distinct chance of accepting the behavior as normal and carrying on such a cycle in their lives and future relationships.
The domestic monster is a narcissistic personality. As such, he does not fear the law; does not fear the courts; does not fear the judges, prosecutors or the police! To use a line penned by the late, great Jeff Cooper; “He must be taught to fear his victim!” That’s not an easy thing to do and I can’t offer any legal advice other than for the victim and/or family members to use absolutely every lawful resource at their disposal to protect themselves. The effort has to be energetic, determined and absolute! One cannot accept half-hearted measures to work in fighting cancer, and one should not accept half-hearted measures to work in combating domestic violence.
We must first learn what the law can do for us and then help them to do it. But we should never forget that there are serious limits in the legal system and that the law cannot keep us safe and secure! The law punishes those who have acted illegally. To be punished, they must first commit a punishable act. I don’t want that act to be the last act in the play about the life of a precious person victimized by an abusive monster. We must learn what we can do outside the courthouse to make ourselves more secure and accept that until the situation is permanently remedied, we will have to alter our lifestyle to be more secure. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to any of the future victims who may face this monster should we finally manage to extract ourselves from our tormenter.