Does it seem that fear and domestic violence coexist? They do. One of the most powerful weapons of abuse is fear. It always starts with words—always. Maybe innocuous at first, you might be told you had a dumb idea, or how ugly and undesirable you are, followed by the comment “Nobody else is ever going to want you.”
Have you experienced “the glare” that comes with fear and domestic violence? You know not to open your mouth. A simple look in your direction is enough to scare you into silence. You might be grabbed by your arm, or shouting may begin. For those who are experiencing such aggressive behavior, you are probably in that box of fear and domestic violence. Ah, but you don’t think you are a victim because, “He hasn’t hit me.” No, not yet.
What about all the threats? Do you think they are simply idle? Most likely the aggressor will follow through by putting action behind those words. Grab your hair. Slap you in the face. Take your neck in their hand and squeeze until you feel as if all the blood in your body has pooled inside your head. That usually works as part of the fear and domestic violence card batterers like to play. If they can strike fear into their prey, they can maintain the power and control that keeps them going. You may begin to recognize narcissistic behavior being displayed. It’s never their fault. They won’t accept responsibility for their own actions. You drove them to drink, so it’s your fault. Every flaw is cast upon someone else to keep it from appearing they are imperfect. But you see and know the real person—the one who finally trapped you into fear and domestic violence.
Why do women remain in abusive relationships, failing to leave until they have been badly beaten? Or do they eventually become another murder statistic as the result of living in fear and domestic violence, too afraid to find a way out? For friends and family who have an idea their loved one may be a victim of domestic violence, here are some suggestions for you:
Look for any changes in their behavior. Do they tend to go mute whenever there might be a hint of confronting a possible situation, or someone asking for answers or explanations? Example: Your sister is acting mousy. She used to be very outgoing and tended to speak up for what she believed, whether asked or not. You ask if there is anything going on in her relationship, and get a quick answer of, “No. Don’t come over. I’m fine. I can handle this.” Is that an out-of-the-ordinary response for her? Did you hear tones of fear and domestic violence coming out of her mouth? Reach out for expert help in what you can do to intervene safely.
Has an intimate partner of someone you love displayed a tendency to discourage recreational or social time between you and your loved one? Has her wardrobe gone to long sleeves and turtlenecks in warm weather? She may be hiding bruises or other marks. You are admonished not to come visit and they avoid seeing you at all costs? Just maybe that black eye is something they don’t want you to discover. Suddenly you see an arm in a cast or sling, and are told, “I fell in the shower and broke my elbow.” It’s a slim possibility, but highly unlikely.
If your gut tells you the one you love is being ravaged by fear and domestic violence, please don’t just let it fester. There are things you can say, do and provide to try to help the other person. But don’t feel rejected if they refuse to accept your help. That’s totally normal for a victim of domestic violence. If they do try to push you away, reassure them that you are there for them whenever they want to talk. Do not put down their abuser, starting a conversation about what a loser he is. What a victim hears is usually, “I can’t believe how stupid you are to pick such a jerk as that. Don’t you have better judgment of character? How did you get yourself into this mess?” Trust me, they’ve asked themselves those questions more times than you can count.
Now for the good news! Fear and domestic violence are great pals, but they don’t have to move in and take over your life. Until I finally entered into a marriage with an honorable man of integrity whose focus in life is to make me feel secure and protected, I didn’t think I’d ever get rid of the triggers that threw me back into that pit of fear and domestic violence. Ironically, we are both survivors of multiple episodes of intimate partner abuse. Talk about two defensive human beings! We met in second grade and grew up together, close buddies but nothing more. No crushes, no dates, just gliding past cooties to friends. After 39 years of no contact, we ran into each other on the internet, and the rest, as they say, is history. One of my greatest triggers is the word, “Stupid.” It didn’t take long for him to stop using that word, voluntarily. Our first dates he would reach out and try to hold my upper arm. Each time I would flinch, waiting for the rag doll to be shaken. I, on the other hand, managed to find some of his triggers. It caught me off-guard to see his reactions, but in short time we both began to sense a bit of peace. We opened our hearts, our minds and our emotions to learn the importance of communication. If anything causes a trigger, we know the safest place to run is into each other’s arms. There is no fear and domestic violence in this relationship. It took a long time for me to get used to not hiding, shaking uncontrollably, lying to my friends and family or covering up the abuse that was going on. There wasn’t any! What a feeling.
So, if you are in the middle of that box of fear and domestic violence, let me assure you it is not a normalcy for a relationship or family. It is simply a manipulative person seeking to gain and maintain power and control, keeping their victim well hidden from those who could help get them out of that box and into safety and freedom. Do not accept “everyone has their problems,” when you are sporting a swollen lip or broken heart. Everyone does have problems, but they share openly, resolve peacefully and do not have to work around fear and domestic violence to get there.