It’s late – dark outside. Your phone rings. You hear screaming and crying in the background. Your heart beat increases, adrenalin flows through your body and your fingers grasp the phone so tightly they hurt.
“He’s going to kill me! Please hel…” The call is disconnected. But it’s enough for you to recognize a loved one’s voice. That of your sister, daughter, niece, mother, aunt, friend, neighbor.
Maybe you live next door. You think of calling the police, but know they may not get there in time. So without hesitating, you rush out the door, phone still grasped like a life-line in your shaking hand. With each step you wonder if you’re in time. If you’ll be able to stop him. (NOTE: I recommend taking a second to call the police so they’ll at least be on their way.)
Just as you get half-way there, you see his car peel out of the drive, spewing gravel. Relief floods through you until the next wave of horrible thoughts hit. “What did he do to her?” “Is she hurt?” “Is she still alive?” “Where are the kids?”
You pick up speed again until you reach the door. You hesitate then, uncertain you want to face what may be inside. But you gather your courage and open the door.
You find her on the floor huddled against the wall, sobbing. You get her up and over to the sofa. You know she’s hurt by the way she walks, but she insists he didn’t touch her, just threatened her. Threatened to bash her face against some object. Threatened to kill her.
You call the police and request assistance for “domestic violence” — all while listening to her beg you not to because she loves him.
Love? You think, How can she love someone that threatens, terrifies and hurts her?
The police show up. They take both of your statements. Of course, she only tells them about the threats. Not about the pain in her stomach which is obvious to anyone who cares to see. The police officers apparently don’t care to. She doesn’t tell them about the grab marks on her arms or the previous split lip, bruised cheek or black eye.
He arrives back at the house. He denies everything. Plays Mr. Charming which has grown old over the few months you’ve known him. Charming like Eddie Haskell — smarmy. One of the officers walks through the house. The police ask him to leave. But then they turn around and tell you in front of him that he has every right to be there even though he’s not on the lease. He has “established residency” because his clothes are there. He’ll have to be legally evicted and he can come back anytime he wants until evicted. The police don’t even chastise him for his threats. They certainly don’t arrest him for the terroristic threats, which you can be arrested for if you threaten bodily harm to another. They don’t provide resource info to your loved one.
So your loved one leaves to stay overnight with a family member or friend because she’s afraid he’ll return. But she “loves” him. You know she’ll be back with him within 48 hours. Although you don’t think she’s recently been using the brain God gave her, you tell her before she leaves that she’s smart. She’s beautiful. She deserves so much better. She deserves someone that will treat her like the special person she is. But first she needs to take some time off from men. Maybe get some counseling. Learn what she wants from life for her and her kids. Learn to love and respect herself before getting involved in another relationship.
You’d like to be shocked it took less than 36 hours for her to move back in with her abuser; however, you’re no longer able to be shocked by the cycle. Not only that, but now she’s angry with you for “butting in” after she called you screaming for help. She won’t speak to you even though you’ve not talked to her since the night of the incident. The one where you ran to protect her afraid it might cost you your life or your freedom. When you told her she deserved so much better and that you loved her. Real reasons there to be angry with you, don’t you think? Part of it may be embarrassment, but part of it is his telling her that if family would leave them alone, they’d be okay. And even though deep down she knows this is a lie, she wants to believe it.
You offer to help her get counseling. This goes without a response.
In the meantime, they still live next door. You still witness him yelling, cursing and waving his arms around like a maniac for everyone (but her of course) to see how crazy and out of control he is. Or maybe they’re not next door, but you still hear about incidents either from her or from others. You’re sick to your stomach with the helplessness of the situation.
But that one relationship is not the only cost. The rest of the family is torn apart. One wants to stick their head in the sand and pretend there’s nothing wrong. One knows there’s a huge issue but doesn’t want to rock the boat and make her angry. You want to shake the hell out of her and ask what her freakin’ problem is. Or have her kidnapped by de-programmers. The family fights/argues about what’s to be done or not done. One is angry at another for saying anything at all. Bonds are broken or at least stretched beyond their capability to return to normal.
The abuser may curse and threaten family members. Or blow up their phone with nasty hateful text messages. What’s worse, you know the person you love, that you would risk your life for, is right beside him while he spews his venom against her family. But it still has no effect on her ability to leave.
Holidays are ruined or abandoned outright. What was once a very close, tight-knit extended family is no more.
One of the worst things you can hear is a small child tell you about all the yelling the abuser does in the house. How he calls her mommy a “whore.” How she gets so scared when he’s “getting on to mommy” that she runs into her room and hides, covering her ears.
So what do you do about the kids? Call CPS? File for temporary custody? Either of those will make family problems even worse. Not doing anything can end up costing a child his life. Or at the least, he or she has learned how to have a dysfunctional relationship and he/she will more than likely repeat that cycle in the future as an adult.
What are the other costs? For one, cops don’t want to waste their time arresting anyone or even writing a report because they know more than likely the victim will be back with the abuser in no time. The victim will likely refuse to testify. She’ll claim she lied or exaggerated. So later when you get a copy of the report from that night, it’s three sentences long. “Responded to people arguing. Suspect was asked to leave premises. Suspect left.” No mention of the threats for use when they’re called out again. Which they will be. No mention of domestic violence. Not even “domestic disturbance”. There is no mention of the drug pipe or ammunition on the counter in plain sight when the officer walked through the house. Knowing the abuser denied having a gun, you wonder why the officer didn’t follow up and ask why he needed ammo with no gun.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying all police officers are like this. I’ve seen some who do their jobs well and who give the victim resource info. They write full reports. But I’ve also witnessed others like above. Recently I saw two very jaded officers who wanted to do nothing but leave after giving all the consideration to the abuser. So I’m more than a little angry right now. If I could do anything to get them fired I would do so in a heartbeat. Small town. All male police force. Not a good thing in case you were wondering. But I fully support those officers that do their jobs. That care about the victims. There are many out there. And I regularly pray for their safety. Domestic disturbance calls are the most dangerous they can go out on. Victims have been known to attack them when they’re trying to arrest the abuser.
I also don’t want you to think I’m blaming the victims for their own abuse. I’m not. No one deserves to be hurt or demeaned by another. My intent is to show that so many other people are affected by domestic violence — not just the victim and abuser. And they all view what’s happening in their own way. The rest of the family feels anger, depression, sadness, and helplessness. Their emotions are often over-looked. They just can’t understand why. Why this is happening to someone they love. Why nothing they say or do helps. Why their loved one stays.
There are many dynamics in play within each of these dysfunctional relationships. Some may not have any other support system. They feel they can’t make it on their own financially. They want their children to have a relationship with their father not realizing the damage they are doing to their child by their continued exposure to violence.
It’s harder to understand when you know you or any of your family would give the person in question a place to live. Would help them financially until they could get on their feet and would give them time to figure how what they wanted and needed. It’s hard to understand why they would stay in such a situation when they don’t have to. But again, there are many many reasons they do this. So try not to judge.
I know it’s hard to watch someone you love being treated so horribly. I know you’re scared. And angry. You may want to see about getting counseling for yourself. Or for your family as a whole because you need each other. Continue to love them. Be available if they ever want to leave the relationship. Let them know that you can’t support the relationship or what they do while in the relationship to maintain it, but that you do love them and will be there for them when they’re ready for help.
Below are some other costs of domestic violence.
Effects of domestic violence on children (from the Safe Haven website)
- Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
- 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
(National Coalition Against Domestic Violence NCADV.org)
- If a child is abused or neglected, the likelihood of arrest increases by 53 percent as a juvenile, by 38 percent as an adult, and by 38 percent for being involved in a violent crime. A significant risk factor for becoming a child abuser, domestic violence perpetrator, and violent juvenile offender is having been abused and/or witnessing violence at home.
- Child victims may also experience: academic problems; agitation, aggression, behavior problems, depression, emotional distress, feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, social problems and withdrawal.
(Toolkit To End Violence Against Women, www.toolkit.ncjrs.org)
It’s not mentioned here, but girls who witness domestic violence in their home are more likely to be involved in an abusive relationship as an adult.
The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. (This information is also from the Safe Haven website.
- Of this total, nearly $4.1 billion is for victims requiring direct medical and mental health care services.
- Lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year.
- Intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work each year – the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.
(American Institute on Domestic Violence, www.aidv-usa.com)
If you’re wondering if what you’re actually experiencing is abuse, you can find some of the signs here.
If you’re being abused, please seek help. Get you and your children safe. And remember…your family loves you. What he’s offering isn’t love. And you deserve better.