FAIRFIELD BAY, Ark. — I imagine the question in this headline seems ridiculous to most. We all have an idea of what domestic violence looks like from the movies. It’s the poor family with the alcoholic dad. The mother goes around in a torn apron and tries to cover her black eye with concealer. It’s so obvious. Or it’s the pretty housewife with the high-powered husband who goes from sweet to sadistic in one weekend. It’s clear-cut and shocking.
You might think that if you don’t have a black eye, then what you’re dealing with isn’t domestic violence. You might think that if you aren’t Jennifer Lopez — secretly teaching yourself kickboxing so you can stand up to your handsome but MMA-trained husband — then it can’t be domestic violence.
He just threw a plate. That happens sometimes. Right? He didn’t mean for it to hit me. We argue a lot because we’re passionate. He’s troubled. He did choke me a little, but I didn’t black out and he was so sorry afterward. He’s really sorry. He doesn’t express himself well with words. He hit me, but it didn’t bruise. I can be a handful. I’m hard to deal with. Maybe we’ll get counseling.
It can start so slowly, like the frog in the pasta pot, the water getting hotter and hotter until, eventually, the water is boiling. You adjust, make concessions, excuses. You understand or deny.
Then, one day, you have a gun to your temple, a knife to your throat. One day you get pushed or thrown down and your head grabs the corner of the fireplace. Now you don’t have to make any more excuses, because it’s over. Your story is over. Maybe there is a little part of you willing to accept that. Maybe deep down in your dark place that’s what you want. Because, if you are experiencing domestic violence, you are likely depressed and feel profoundly alone. But even if your suffering is ended, if you have children, what happens to them? What happens to your children?
Oklahoma sixth in nation for domestic violence
In a 2015 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board report, Oklahoma saw 91 domestic-violence perpetrators commit homicides claiming 93 victims. Oklahoma City had 15 domestic violence-related deaths, and Tulsa suffered 22 deaths in that same year. Remember, these are just instances resulting in a homicide. Oklahoma ranks sixth in the nation for domestic-abuse crimes. Sixth.
While terrible, those facts can seem distant if you haven’t lived it. Or if you are living it but still think it’s not you.
He will never go that far. He gets really angry, but he’s always sorry later. Sometimes I yell, throw things and punch back. I’m just as bad.
I love you. And you’re wrong.
The book you need to read is Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. Or visit this website, CryingOutForJustice.com. Read it if you even maybe a little bit think or wonder whether what you’re experiencing is violence and abuse. It will answer that question for you.
Bancroft defines a domestic abuser as:
A family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
I’ll add this: Do his actions or words scare you, hurt you or control you? Even if he is sorry later, does he always have a reason for his outbursts? When you fight back, or even if you start the fight, do you think (for even a minute) he ever experiences fear or feels controlled? If your answers are yes, yes and no, then you are in an abusive relationship, and you are at risk.
‘The fish is the last to see the water’
Imagine you’re in your car with three girlfriends. One of you will experience severe violence from a partner in your lifetime. One of you. So it could be you. Or it could be your friend. She doesn’t need to have a torn apron or a black eye to be suffering domestic violence, and you don’t need to be a saint to deserve better than physical abuse.
I usually didn’t have a black eye, and I am no saint. I yelled and punched and kicked back, too. I loved him and tried prayer, books and counseling. I tried to “fix myself.” But after the knife I regularly used to slice apples for our son was pressed against my throat — for the second time — I finally called the police. You can, too. I promise you, dear one, you can, too.
There is a saying, “The fish is the last one to see the water.” It’s hard to realize, understand or accept something when you are so immersed in it. I know. You want to share some of the blame. You want to help or fix the person you love. And you’ve seen the movies — but it’s not like that. It isn’t that bad.
Maybe it isn’t. Not yet.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers no judgment, just help, 24/7, 365 days a year: 1-800-799-7233.