Sunday, December 12, 2010

Domestic Violence: It Could Happen to You, It Happened to Me

Battering is the major cause of injury to women, resulting in more injuries to women than auto accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
Stark, E., & A. Flitcraft. (1988)
Violence Among Intimates, An Epidemiological Review,@ in
V.D. Van Hasselt, et al., (eds.), Handbook of Family Violence

Children witnessing the violence inflicted on their mothers evidence behavioral, somatic, or emotional problems similar to those experienced by physically abused children.
Jaffe, P.G., D.A. Wolfe, & S.K. Wilson (1990)
Children of Battered Women: Issues in Child Development and Intervention Planning
Newbury Park, CA: Sage

One study demonstrated that some fathers deliberately arrange for the children to witness the violence.
Dobash, R.E. & Dobash, R.P. (1979)
Violence Against Wives
New York: Free Press

One third of women in Utah (34%) have experienced Emotional abuse during the past year.
One in five women in Utah relate that their children witness or hear verbal abuse, while one in fourteen report their children witness or hear physical abuse.
Domestic Violence Incidence and prevalence Study
conducted for Governor's Commission on Women and Families
Dan Jones & Associates, Inc., April-May 1997

from DCFS Utah

I am an average LDS girl. I had a list of qualities I wanted in my future husband. I had a plan for a career. I graduated from BYU. I served a mission. I married after my mission. I had a child. I was abused.

If the statistics are even close to accurate, if it is true that one third of women are emotionally abused, the chances are stellar that there are at least 20 women in your ward or neighborhood who are emotionally abused. From my observations since being enlightened to domestic violence, I suspect there is at least one man as well, probably more.

My current point in recovery is a strange one. I mostly accept what happened to me. Now, I'm dealing with trust issues and a burning desire to never be taken advantage of again, and not to let anyone in my circle of influence let the least scent of emotional violence pass. I find myself extra sensitive to those who try to control by passing along little niggling comments. I'm not willing to let things like that slide any more.

One misconception about abuse is that spouse abuse is not necessarily child abuse. Wrong. Spouse abuse IS BY NECESSITY also child abuse, if there are children in the home.

Another big one is the thought that, "Well, if it were me, I'd hand him his head on a platter!" and other, less complimentary or refined comments.

It's not true.

The core of abuse, ANY abuse, is emotional. There can be emotional abuse where physical violence has not yet occurred, but there is no physical abuse that has not been preceded by emotional violence. And it's not like an otherwise decent spouse suddenly hauls off and hits you. He's worked hard to get you in an emotional state where you feel you deserve it or that you must endure it by necessity. An abuser's best protector is his victim. By design.

For those who have survived abuse, reading Brian Mitchell's trial transcripts or the account of Natasha who was taken for sex trafficking, can be a walk down memory lane. Unlike the physical abuse, they can seem quite subtle, those hints of emotional abuse, but they are there for those with eyes to see.

The main thing that most domestic violence victims have in common is a desire to do the right thing, to be a good spouse, child, or parent. It is not a character flaw that leads them to become abuse recipients, it is just wanting to be good.

That desire to be good is deliberately cultivated by abusers into a fear of being bad.

So don't think you're safe. Emotional abuse is different from rape, mugging, kidnapping, or other crimes mostly in that it is more difficult to prove.

The best way to fight against it is to learn about it and become aware of the signs of abuse that happen before they become physical. You could save someone, maybe your daughter or son . . . maybe even yourself.

Hide your heart from sight,
Lock your dreams at night,
It could happen to you.

Don't count stars,
Or you might stumble.
Someone drops a sigh,
And down you'll tumble.

Keep an eye on spring,
Run when church bells ring.
It could happen to you.

All I did was wonder how your arms would be,
And it happened to me.
—Frank Sinatra

No More Secrets, Utah


  1. Also, if you are being abused, or have been abused, do not let that cloud your mind as to how desperately your children need you.

  2. I'm glad this issue is being dealt with more openly.

    When I was in Provo, in the MTC as a missionary, in 1984, I encountered this emotionally abusive attitude among most of the MTC's ecclesiastical leaders that I had contact with.

    That "unrighteous dominion" thing is alive and well in the church, even in, or perhaps especially in, Happy Valley.

  3. I spoke in two wards a couple of weeks ago about how the Holy Ghost can help us as we interact with our family and friends. There was one major addition to my talk in the second ward that truly surprised me, as I had not anticipated it at all.

    As I was sitting on the stand pondering if I should change anything about the talk I had given in the last ward, the thought hit me hard that I should state explicitly that the general message I was going to deliver (that our first responsibility in our interactions with others is to make sure we are charitable and loving in the way we view those who are closest to us - that we too often are harder on those we love the most than those whom we don't know as intimately) DOES NOT apply to those being abused in some way - that it is NOT their duty or obligation to try to love an abuser into changing.

    I have no idea if there was someone in the congregation that day who was being abused, or if there was someone who knew of abuse and had been counseling the person to "just love him / her more". I don't know, but the impression was obvious and undeniable, so I shared that message before proceeding to the rest of my talk.

  4. Thank you, Ray. I'm sure that someone needed to hear it.

    Truth be told, I suspect that most who are being abused don't realize they are being abused. In fact, if you were to broach the subject with them, they will often deny it vehemently. That is one of the many subtle signs that it really is abuse, and not just typical familial disagreement.


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