By Tracy E. Barnhart, Backgate Contributing Training Author
During my many years involved in law enforcement I have responded to thousands of domestic related incidents and been involved in countless family and live in partner mediations. Calls of this nature are just a part of being a police officer. Even police officers or correctional officers that cannot maintain a stable home environment for themselves and respond and perform outstandingly when called upon to mediate a dispute. I have seen incidents from family arguments to an aggravated assault in which the husband struck his wife in the mouth with a hammer, resulting in perminate disfigurement to the female. I hope that the following provides information that will assist you in your life from becoming a victim of domestic violence and assists you in recognizing behaviors exhibited by batterers.
I always like to start out my articles with some facts and statistics and this article is not without some startling statistics so here we go;
- The chances of becoming a victim of sexual assault in your lifetime are one in three for females and one in six for males.
- Before the age of eighteen one in four girls and one in seven boys will be the victim of sexual assault.
- The majority of all assaults occur in the home.
- The abuse is never the victim’s fault. Whatever you did you did not deserve to be abused, battered or sexually assaulted.
Does your partner:
· Embarrass you with put-downs?
· Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
· Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
· Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
· Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
· Make all of the decisions?
· Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
· Prevent you from working or attending school?
· Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
· Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
· Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
· Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
· Force you to try and drop charges?
· Threaten to commit suicide?
· Threaten to kill you?
If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.
FORMS OF ABUSE
· EMOTIONAL ABUSE: This includes any action, which causes loss of self-esteem, such as name calling, swearing, criticizing, using derogatory terms to describe the person, habitual scapegoat or blaming or any other be-littling words or actions, putting her down, making her think that she is crazy.
· PHYSICAL: The inflicting of physical injury or pain upon another person. This may include burning, hitting, punching, pinching, pushing, scratching, shaking, kicking, or otherwise harming the individual. The partner may have not intended to hurt the other person but the injury was not an accident. This is not acceptable in any relationship.
· PSYCHOLOGOCAL: This includes any action, which creates fear, such as isolation or threats, playing mind games. Coercion and threats such as making and / or carrying out threats to hurt the other, threatening to leave or to commit suicide, make the significant other do illegal acts.
· SEXUAL: Sexual assaults are acts of violence where sex is used as the weapon. Assaults are motivated primarily out of anger and or a need to feel powerful by controlling, dominating or humiliating the victim. Victims of sexual assault are forced, coerced and or manipulated to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Victims do not cause the assault and are not to blame. Told anti-women jokes or make demeaning remarks about women or criticized you sexually or even withhold sex and affection.
Many victims and even parents and friends of victims that I have come in contact with are always interested in signs and ways to predict if they are going to become involved with someone who is physically abusive. Usually battering occurs between a man and a woman, but same sex battering occurs as well. More than three out of every one hundred women have been severely assaulted by their male partners during the proceeding twelve months. Other estimates are that husbands or significant others in the United Stated abuse higher portions of females.
Below is a list of behaviors that have been documented in people who abuse their partners and the last four signs listed are signs of individuals who batter but many people don’t even realize what abuse is or the beginning of physical abuse in a relationship. If your partner has several of the indicating behaviors (three or more) there is a strong potential for physical violence in the relationship. The more behaviors that a person has the more likely the person is a batterer. As the relationship initiates this behaviors may be more subtle but as time goes on the signals and behaviors become more prevalent and dominate and control the person.
I have spoke to hundreds of domestic violence victims as well as high school age students about violence and I often ask this question just to hear the response. “Is it ever ok to hit your partner?” The answer will stun you as it does me every time I ask it. “Well sometimes, depending on the situation.” Females will even answer this question with, “it depends on what I do.” This is why I have found that people don’t know what abuse is and don’t understand that no one ever deserves to be assaulted. Don’t fall into the thinking pattern of most victims of domestic violence do and that is, “I can change them in time, and those little quirks that he shows sometimes will go away if I love him.” No matter how much love, compassion or determination that you show your partner you will not change deep-seated behaviors and patterns of abuse that you don’t like. You either need to become a victim and accept it or get out of the relationship. Now I am not a psychologist but I have dealt with realistic on the streets experience and I have always found this to be true, “you can never change a leopards spots.”
· Jealousy: At the beginning of a relationship an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it’s a sign of possessiveness and a lack of trust. The batterer will always question their partner about whom they talk to, who she spoke to today, why she was where she was at, accuse her of flirting, or become jealous of the time they spend with family, friends or children. As jealousy progresses the batterer may call frequently during the day or just drop in unexspecdly. The batterer may refuse to let the partner work or continue a career for fear that they will meet someone else or ever exhibit strange behaviors such as checking vehicle mileage or asking friends to watch them when outside the home.
· Controlling attitude: At first the batterer may say that this behavior is because they are concerned for their safety, and to ensure that their time is well spent, or that good decisions are made. The batterer will become angry is the partner is late coming home from an appointment. Once home the batterer will intensely question where she was, why she is so late, who she seen or spoke to. As this behavior get worse the batterer may not let the partner make personal decisions about the house, personal clothing, friends or associates or even church. The batterer may keep all the money or refuse to allow bank or checkbooks be observed or even make the partner ask permission to leave the residence. One call of domestic violence that I responded to was called by a neighbor and through investigation it was found that when the husband left for work in the morning he locked his wife in the basement until he returned home.
· Quick involvement: Many domestic violence victims dated or knew their partners for less that six months prior to getting married, engaged or started living together. The batterer comes on like a whirlwind claiming, “you’re the only person I could ever talk to,” “I’ve never felt like this about anyone before.” The batterer will pressure the partner to commit to the relationship in such a way that they will feel guilty or that she is letting him down if they want to break off the involvement.
· Unrealistic expectations: Abusive partners will expect their partners to meet or exceed all of their needs. The batterer expects them to be the perfect wife, mother, lover and friend. The batterer will say things like, “If you love me, I’m all that you need, you’re all that I need.” The partner is supposed to take care of everything for them emotionally as well as physically without flaw.
· Isolation: An abusive person tries to cut their partner off from all outside resources. If she has male friends then she is a whore, if she has female friends then she is gay, if she is close to the family then she is still attached to the apron strings. The batterer accuses people who may form a support network of causing trouble or being the reason for all their problems. The batterer may want to live in the country without a phone, that batterer may not let the partner use the car or not have a reliable vehicle to use. Or the batterer may not let the partner work, go to school or go out with friends.
· Blames others for problems: If the batterer is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing them wrong, out to get them. The batterer may make mistakes and later blame the partner for the results or for upsetting them keeping them from concentrating on work. The batterer will blame the partner or find fault in them for anything that goes wrong.
· Blames others for feelings: The batterer will blame the partner for making them angry or accuse them of hurting them by not doing what they want them to do and will use these feelings to manipulate the partner. It is harder to identify the claims, “you make me happy, and you control how I feel.”
· Hypersensitivity: An abuser is easily insulted, and may claim that their feelings are hurt when really they are mad and take the slightest setbacks personally. The batterer will rant and rave about the injustice of things that happened even things that are just a part of living, like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic citation, paying taxes, being asked to help with chores, or that one of their behaviors are annoying.
· Cruelty to animals or children: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their suffering. The batterer may expect children to be capable of doing things beyond their capability like whipping a 2 year old for wetting a diaper or the batterer may tease children until they cry. The batterer may not want the children to eat at the table or to keep them in their rooms all evening while the batterer is home.
· Playful use of force during sex: This is the kind of person who may like to throw the partner down and hold them in place during sex. The batterer may want to act out fantasies during sex where the partner is helpless. The batterer may be letting the partner know that the ides of rape is exciting. They may show little concern about whether the partner is enjoying or even wants to have sex and will use sulking or anger to manipulate them into compliance. The batterer will start to have sex with the partner while they are asleep and demand sex when the partner is tired or ill. This may also include tickling the partner into tears or to a point of pain.
· Verbal or emotional abuse: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful this can be seen when the abuser degrades the partner, cursing them, playing down accomplishments. The abuser will tell the partner that they are stupid and unable to function without them. This may evolve the batterer waking up the partner to verbally abuse them or not letting them sleep. The abuser will ignore feelings, continually criticize you, humiliate you in public, and often refuse to share the money, and inform you about affairs that they imagine you were having.
· Rigid sexual roles: The abuser expects the partner to serve; the batterer may say the partner must stay at home, and that she must be appreciative, compliant and obedient in all things, even things that are criminal in nature. The abuser will see females as inferior to men and only responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and incapable to be a whole person without a relationship. After time with this behavior the partner may even grow into believing this rhetoric.
· Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Many partners are confused by the abusers sudden change in moods. They may think the abuser has some special mental problem because one minute the batterer is nice and the next minute they are exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are classical signs of people who beat their partners and these behaviors are related to other behaviors like hypersensitivity.
· *** Past battering: The batterer has abused past partners but utilizes excuses like, “they made me do it.” The partner may hear people talk about past violence from past partners, family members, or friends. A batterer will beat any partner if they stick around long enough for the violence to begin; situational circumstances do not make a person resort to violence.
· *** Threats of violence: This could include any threat of physical force meant to control the partner. “I’ll slap the smile off your face; I’ll break your neck.” Most people do not threaten their mates but a batterer will try and excuse comments by saying that everyone talks like that.
· *** Breaking or striking objects: This behavior of breaking loved or treasured items is used as a punishment for acts of defiance or bedrail. This behavior is rarely designed to terrorize the partner into submission but merely intended to show the batterers power. The abuser may beat on the table with a closed fist or throw objects near the partner. Again this very remarkable behavior is not only a sign of extreme emotional immaturity but there is a danger when someone thinks that they have the right to punish or frighten the partner.
· *** Any force during an argument: Kicking, punching, slapping, hair pulling, pinching, biting, stomping, poking and spitting are all forms of physical violence. This may include holding the partner down and restraining them from leaving. The batterer may hold the partner down or against the wall and say, “you are going to listen to me.” Weapons such as, knives, guns, baseball bats, and tools are often used if not for physical violence then as intimidation tools.
The facts show that in the United States there are 1,500 shelters for battered women but there are more than 3,800 animal shelters. The numbers are frightening; depending on which study that you read you will find that about seventy five percent of all women presented to emergency rooms have been or is currently the victim of domestic violence. The number one question people ask me about this crime is why they stay in the relationship. Well, this is not easily answered and in part the victim does not recognize the early signs or those they don’t want to recognize the signs. We all as a society want to think that it could never happen to me and when it does we are mortified.
Another reason may be that women who leave their batterers are at a seventy five percent greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay. Only when we realize that our partners exhibit the early signs and behaviors of a batterer and that no person deserves to be treated with less that ultimate respect will we end this crime. Partners need to get out of abusive relationships early then inform all friends and relatives of the abuse so that the word gets out on this batterer in order to prevent the next victim. The pattern to abuse is slow moving like a train and you will either need to get off the tracks or get run over, there are no in-betweens.
The cycle of violence is always there and after each battering the abuser is always sorry, extremely nice and loving and will do things for the partner that is very romantic and kind. Often women will lead on the last violence cycle in order to get to this loving stage but the cycle will erupt again and again and that is no way to live.
There are seven steps to escaping the violence if you are involved in an abusive relationship. I hope that you will never have to employ them in your lifetime but if you do feel free to contact the National Domestic Violence hotline for further information Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
- GET TO A SAFE PLACE: It is a crime to threaten to assault or to assault another person, family or household member. The domestic violence law also applies to persons whom have had children together. If you are the victim of domestic violence you have the right to protect yourself and to expect help from others. Don’t stay in the home! Doing nothing solves nothing. Get out of the residence and get to a friends house, relatives or neighbor. Call the police, sheriff, state patrol or domestic violence agency immediately. There are temporary shelters available for your and your children. The important thing is to get to a safe place as soon as possible.
- CALL THE POLICE: If you are involved in an assault relationship you cannot, and will not control the situation or can you change the cycle of violence. Therefore it is important to report any assault or battery to the police or sheriff department by calling 9-1-1 immediately. Officers will arrest the aggressor if there are signs of violence or if the officers can establish probable cause to believe that violence occurred. The sooner that you report the crime the better because by allowing others to get involved you assist yourself as well as the batterer.
- FOLLOW THROUGH: Get the name and phone number of the investigating officer involved in your case. If there is enough evidence to establish the crime the officers will arrest the assailant and remove them from the residence. The assailant will be incrassated until an arraignment in court is conducted and a judge will determine the bail, if any, as well as any release instructions prior to the release from custody. This will give both you and your aggressor time to assess your situation and give you time to speak to counselors about the situation. If the assailant if released the court will notify you of the release as well as any court release instructions. It is common for the victim at this time to fear reprisal from the aggressor. Remember, you are the primary witness in this crime and tampering with the case by making contact with you is a crime within itself. If you are contacted either directly or indirectly by anyone regarding the case then contact the police immediately and demand action be taken.
- DON’T BELIEVE…”IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN”: Often the batterer will be unable to admit that they have a problem or attempt to justify the action on you or another factor or place the blame elsewhere. Counseling is only helpful if both partners want the help and are motivated to work together to make change. At this time the batterer will be in the loving stage and will become extremely apologetic and often try and talk you into dropping the charges because, “it will never happen again.” There is only one person a fault and that is the batterer himself or herself and though some people can change this type of behavior requires long-term counseling. The prosecutor will not allow you to drop the charges for this very reason and if you become non-helpful in the case the state will assume the charges on your behalf.
- CONSIDER YOUR FUTURE SAFETY: If the batterer refuses to seek help it is unlikely that the abusive relationship will ever end. Statistics show that the beatings will become more and more severe as time goes on so protect yourself. Remember your love and support will never change their aggressive behavior or the cycle of violence and there will be a next time.
- LOOK FOR HELP: You are not alone. There are many places where a battered person can seek assistance. The department of social services can give you financial assistance to persons with minor children who cannot support themselves. To qualify for this assistance you must keep a separate residence from the batterer. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help there are many agencies out there that want to help you, you only need to ask.
- PROVIDE FOR THE FUTURE: Even if you have never worked before, you can become self-supporting. Contact the employment services in your area. Go to the library and check out the local as well as the surrounding areas newspapers and seek the classifieds. Community education classes are open to those who would like to complete their high school education or want to learn new job related skills. Assistance with registration, academic counseling, support groups, and childcare are also available for persons returning to school to further their education.