Given enough time, a victim of domestic violence is almost certain to hear, “It was an accident.” That could easily be part of the honeymoon phase that occurs in abusive relationships and domestic violence. Most of us know by now that domestic violence is truly a matter of power and control, rather than anger management. The perpetrator thinks that by convincing his victim she fell into his fist, he accidentally grabbed her by the hair or some other absurd action took place, he will retain his power and control. Unfortunately, far too many victims want to believe that the one doing the battering did not mean to strike them, back them into a corner, grab them or the such, rather than it was an accident. After all, who really wants to believe someone can be that abusive to the one person they are supposed to love? The truth is not always easy to accept, but it is the truth nonetheless.
Imagine the common scenes where a victim shows up at an emergency room, claiming to have slipped in the shower and broken her arm. Her abuser is present, of course, making sure she does not let the cat out of the bag. She knows that to tell the truth would only mean more harm to her. The level of fear in a victim is immeasurable at a point like this. There are those nurses and doctors who may sense that something is not quite right, and if given the opportunity may try to ask the victim if it was an accident, or someone harmed them. Not very often will the victim open up with honesty and reveal the facts. The mindset of the victim of domestic violence who has been harmed to this level is that opening up will position them for further harm and danger.
Sometimes a victim who was just battered may call for law enforcement assistance. Most times they don’t, because the victim senses more danger from their abuser if they take action. They feel threatened from as little as a glare by the abuser, or remember being told, “Call the law and I’ll kill you.” So, on occasions when law enforcement is called and arrives at the scene of the domestic violence, the victim will come running out the door explaining to them, “I’m sorry. He didn’t really do anything. It was an accident. You can go.” Knowing that the abuser is just inside the door, the victim would rather lie to the police than return inside to potentially be beaten further for speaking out. In many areas, if law enforcement is called out on a domestic dispute, their standard procedure is that one of the two parties will leave the premises. If there are signs of physical harm to only one person, usually the other person will be taken in. Other agencies take both parties. Let’s think about this. By taking in both parties, without a doubt they are taking the victim in for questioning and re-victimization. On the other hand, if they interrogate the victim at the site where the abuse took place, within view of the abuser, it is highly unlikely the victim will speak at all. Imagine if you will, a woman who has just been battered being questioned by law officers, looking up to see the batterer sitting in the back of a cruiser. She is within eyesight, and possibly earshot of the one who has just physically harmed her. One glare is all it takes. That usually silences the witness/victim, and puts law enforcement in a position of being unable to move forward with what has just taken place. In most cases, the victimizer is released, they go about their business, and the abuse continues. They are keenly aware of the untruth in “It was an accident,” and know they will probably be called out to this site again, and again, and again…
Those who are responsible for perpetrating domestic violence are more worried about losing their power and control over a weaker vessel, keeping their secret well hidden from the world outside their home, than being concerned for their unacceptable behavior. Perhaps in some perverted fashion they momentarily think of how this affects the victim. But it always goes back to their power and control. Often we will see these very same people intimidated by those they work with, socialize with or even attend a house of worship with. Abusers are not so bold with others who are stronger than they are. It is much easier to bully someone weaker and more assessable, allowing them to retain their power and control. Many consider that a simple anger management course should do the trick. Please rethink this, for as I said, domestic violence is a power and control issue—not so much anger management. For reference, I suggest you look at the Duluth Wheel which has been designed for just this purpose. You can do a search on this blog for “power and control wheel” or “Duluth Wheel.” By dismissing a broken jaw or arm, a black eye or unimaginable levels of emotional and verbal abuse with the excuse, “It was an accident,” an attempt is made to cover up what has been perpetrated.
As unimportant as it may seem, this writer has actually experienced and observed batterers who regularly emotionally and verbally abused their spouse and/or significant other. The words they use are an emotional form of nothing less than the beating of their very soul. Their spirit is broken, as if it were an arm or jaw. She will be called “bitch” or perhaps “slut” in one minute, and the next minute she will hear him say, “I don’t know what came over me. I didn’t really mean it, it was an accident.” From my personal experience, I usually heard, “Just because I said it, doesn’t mean I meant it.”
The point of this post is to make one thing abundantly clear: It was not an accident. The honeymoon is over. There will be regular times when you will be told it was an accident. The cycle will continue until either you become brave enough to break it, or a friend/family member steps in to help you. There are two strong weapons of domestic violence: your silence and their control. One of the most frightening things a victim of domestic violence can do is begin planning to leave. The key word here is “planning” and I refer you to other posts regarding safety plans and exit plans here on my website. Please search for them.
Be warned! A victim is at the highest level of danger when she decides it is time to go. A failure to plan is a plan to fail. You do not have to believe it was an accident. Most assuredly, it was not. And, there will continue to be the cycle of abuse and the honeymoon phase until someone ends it. Hopefully, it will not be the hand of death.