Today was one of those days where I was almost wild with energy. Happens about once per month, I get this wild surge of energy and when I get like that, I am too much even for me to handle never mind the rest of the world…but it was good because I crammed a lot into the day – even some research at the law library, and I topped it off with what I do best: A warm cup of tea at Starbucks, with a chocolate brownie (or three), and my journal, plotting my next post, or my next move, or my next goal or my next idea, while Frank Sinatra droned in the background.
And that is where I got my idea for this post. It is a natural progression, really, given that I’ve done all these posts lately on the subject of domestic violence. You can actually find all my prior domestic violence posts here: http://www.divorcesaloon.com/index.php?s=domestic+violence. I have stuff on the Jennifer Hudson domestic violence/murder; the Christmas Santa murder/suicide; Rihanna and Chris violence/arrest; Judge James Peck arrest for slapping his wife; the in vitro lawyer murder/suicide; the facebook murder in UK; the Lupoe murder/suicide of his entire family; the Muslim man who beheaded his wife; and a slew of other cases. In each and everyone of these cases, except for one, women were the victim of domestic violence. And in most of the cases, she wound up dead. This is incredibly sobering.
I hope I have never come off as being blasé about this issue. If I have, it is due to my ignorance about it. I have been fortunate. Very fortunate, so far in my life that I have not been directly affected by domestic violence. It is something I don’t really understand. It is one of those things that “happens to other people” and I knock on wood as I say this, and say a prayer in my heart, that it is never something that I ever have to confront on a personal level. Because it is pretty depressing. It is a blessing that I have the independent streak that I have, so that I guess I have personally been willing to walk away, to be alone, than to risk getting myself into this kind of situation. Well, I considered myself blessed in that tiny way, but after my marginal research tonight, I have begun to think that my luck has nothing to do with my “independence” at all. Cause, even independent women seem to be able to get themselves into this mess. My luck has had to do with just my luck. So far. That’s all.
So. I was at the law library for a couple of hours tonight and I picked up two books almost involuntarily. It’s almost like I was drawn to that section of the library, you know? As if something was saying, “here, read this.” The first is a book, Lawyers Manual on Domestic Violenceby Jill Laurie Goodman and Dorchen A. Leidholdt is where I got the title for this post: “When the perfect gentleman is a domestic abuser.” It seems a lot of victims had started out with what they thought was a “perfect gentleman” the very type of man I’ve been holding out for, and dreaming of. “The perfect gentleman.”
And then I went on to this lesson about marital rape, sexual abuse, killing of pets out of jealousy, excited utterances in front of families, neighbors hearing screams, evidence of bruises and red marks…controlling and manipulative spouses and lovers….isolation, blame excessive criticism…and this was just one chapter of the book.
Then I read the intro to Justice Honorable Diane Kiesel’s book, “Domestic Violence: Law, Policy and Practicewhere she talked about all the “indicia of domestic violence”, learned helplessness of formerly strong women who subsequently found themselves in abusive relationships, the statistics that show that 8/10 domestic violence victims are women; the case study of this mother who left the man, only to feel guilt that she couldn’t provide properly for her child, and her thinking that getting hit was better than her child having to “eat pasta and ketchup every night.”
In her book, Justice Kiesel discusses some of the strategies that women use to combat the violence such as:
1. Complying with the demands of the abuser to keep the peace
2. Talking with the batterer to stop the violence
3. Temporarily escaping
4. Hiding and disguising their appearance
5. physically resisting the violence
6. Using the children as a shield
7. soliciting help from neighbors, family and friends
8. calling the police
9. seeking a protective order from the court
10. participating in criminal prosecutions of the abuser
11. Going to a shelter
12. participating in specialized domestic programs by women’s support groups, and health and mental professionals and clergy
Of course, each method has its own drawbacks depending on the situation the victim finds him or herself in. For example, calling the police, for some women, exacerbates the violence rather than reduces it. So an individual woman has to know her situation and be able to assess what is the best response for her at the particular moment, to maximize her safety long enough so that she can get out and get help.
Then after I finished reading, I struck up a conversation with the librarian and I said to her, “I don’t understand why women don’t just leave. I don’t get it.” And her opinion was, “sometimes they just can’t. It’s a very complex issue.”
I keep thinking about the Muslim woman in Buffalo New York who was beheaded last week by her husband. http://www.divorcesaloon.com/muzzammil-hassan-founder-of-muslim-tv-beheads-wife-in-buffalo-new-york Is there anything the system could have done for this woman? Could she have been saved? I guess one of the fundamental things that emerged from my research today was that if you are a woman in an abusive situation, and your husband has ever threatened you with a weapon, if he’s unemployed, on drugs, drinking excessively, you have a child that is not his, these are red flags. And you may be in a very unsafe situation, and you need to get out. Because, while 20% of abused women who are murdered by an intimate partner were never assaulted or threatened with a weapon by their abuser before their death (and that is pretty scary if you think about the fact that, I think the stats are that about 1000 women die at the hand of their partners each day so 200 were never threatened prior to being killed) fully 80% received threats prior to being killed by their “perfect gentleman” partner.
In Lawyers Manual on Domestic Violence, counsels are advised to:
Find out from the client if she feels “safe” living with the person or having the person know where she is living if she has moved out. The client should also be advised to find a safe place outside of her home for money, extra keys, a spare credit card and documents such as birth certificates or immigration papers. If possible, she should identify a friend or a relative who has a home where she can take refuge. She should be counseled about the pros and cons of calling the police (who sometimes don’t arrest the abuser when asked) and if the victim thinks she will enrage the abuser by calling the police, she should be advised to have a friend or relative or neighbor do it.
For me, personally, learning that one of the things that enrages abusers most is when the victim leaves was pretty chilling. Cause, to me, that is the obvious solution – get the hell out of there. But when you do that, remember the objective is that he can’t find you. Change your address, social security number, hair color, friends, everything. Put oceans between you, if possible. You just can’t get far enough from a person like this.
Oh, and there are special rules for people who are in an abusive situation and are being threatened with losing a “green card.” That is a whole other post though. Suffice to say that if you have to end an abusive marriage before you get the greencard, the law allows you to still get it, under an exception to the usual rules that was specifically carved out for people in abusive marriages.