Behind this door of a respectable home may live the trapped victim of domestic violence; someone who never saw it coming and now cannot find a way to escape. She or he is a prisoner in a most respectful and "sophisticated" cell.
The face of domestic violence is not what you think it is. We always picture the man in the wife-beater t-shirt with a beer and cigarette in one hand and clenched fist for the other sitting in front of a loud television. But that is just a cliche. Sure, as with all cliches, there are elements of the truth. But this caricature is only one of many possibilities.
The nicely dressed, perfectly manicured, well-spoken gentleman you would never suspect of being domestically violent may not be whom he seems.
And domestic violence is not always physical, though it often ends that way. Much of the time it is emotional absence, coupled with ridicule and demeaning verbal abuse. Psychological violence and erratic behavior can destroy the spirit of the other person before it ever touches them physically.
Periods of tension, fear and estrangement will be replaced in a cycle with periods of calm, understanding and reconciliation. Then it recycles to abuse and abandonment. This causes confusion, uncertainty, doubt and anxiety in the victim, resulting in psychological and physical health problems. These appear to be the victim's personal problem, not the wounds of domestic violence.
The goal of this violence is control and attention at any cost and with whatever manipulation is needed.
The interesting thing is that the abuser will always try to convince his or her victim that it is their fault. That they "make them mad, make them do these things" and they will hurl guilt. And very few people recognize the abuse, either as the victim or the abuser. For this reason it is insidious and dangerous.
One well documented form of manipulation has been labeled "Gaslighting." In this method seeds of doubt are planted in the victim, causing them to question their memory, perceptions, or their very sanity. The reality of past abuses and abandonings are rationalized and rewritten as misunderstanding, misinterpretation or simply something that never really occurred at all.
The victim of domestic violence almost to a person believes it is his or her fault or failing. The abuser is more than happy to let them take that responsibility for the abuse.
If you know of a case of domestic violence, don't ignore your gut. And know that getting the victim out is actually far more difficult and possibly more dangerous than you realize if you wait too long. Act on it now and get help for the victim as early as you can. You can start here!
Today is National Say Something Nice Day! It seemed like a good time to pay attention to how we treat one another.