A couple comes into the courtroom. The husband is cool, calm and collected. The wife looks like she’s either next to hysterics or quiet as a mouse, probably appearing terrified. He starts flinging accusations at her, and she doesn’t deny them. She may in fact resemble the perpetual deer in the headlights, surprised by his allegations. On the surface, this appears to be a cut-and-dried case. He appears sincere and truthful, while she looks out of control, but look deeper, and there is likely a very different story.
Be careful of first impressions as they may not reveal the whole story. Abusers are not usually obvious about their abuse. They will probably deny it to their dying day. Some may admit to some of the lesser offenses such as name-calling, or even a mild slap here and again in order to show false remorse. Most abusers are skilled con-artists, swaying people to their side, deflecting blame, somehow making the victim appear responsible. Yes, your honor, I threw her across the room, but it was in self-defense (failing to note the fact that she had no weapon at the time, and is half his size.) I called her a whore because I caught her chatting online with another man (leaving out the part that he was impersonating her online to frame her for cheating and never actually caught her in any wrongdoing). He’s likely to accuse his victim of making it up. He may say “if things were really that bad, she would have left sooner.” He may even accuse her of having enjoyed the abuse.
Now let’s look at the victim of domestic violence. She probably feels ambushed by his allegations and has no ready answer for them. She may not want to bring the abuse into the divorce proceedings as it’s likely he has threatened her if she does. She already feels like a liar because she’s not revealing the entire truth. If she does open up about it, especially if there have been no reports of it previously, she probably will be written off as overdramatizing, or even flat out lying. She’s often still in fear of her abuser, meaning that any agreement that she makes is actually under duress. She wants to protect her children, but in many ways is not sure how. If she takes the children away from him, he may cause harm to herself or the children. If she doesn’t take the children from him, he may take them from her. There’s a very real possibility that she may never see her children again.
He may try to drag the divorce out, breaking her financially and emotionally. He may not even have very far to go emotionally as her emotional standing is already shaky. He will try to take everything from her, leaving her penniless as punishment for having betrayed him. He’ll take the house, the furniture, keep all the money, and the children. Taking the children gives him a double bonus because he will also be able to stick her for child support. If she is capable of paying the child support, he just takes her back to court over and over to raise it or cause her to owe more than was initially agreed upon. If she doesn’t have the ability to pay, this gives him even more ammunition to continue breaking down her self-esteem. He’ll call her a deadbeat for being unable to find a job. He’ll harass her with threats of being thrown in jail. He won’t let her pick up the children for visitation because he’s talked to the DA about getting her driver’s license revoked, meanwhile telling the children that she isn’t even trying to see them.
Good mothers are losing their children everyday to men who have tortured and abused them. That torture and abuse is not always physical. It may be sexual, where he has forced her to submit to his desires against her will. It may be emotional, where he has put her down to the point that she has no self-esteem left and feels worthless. It may only be nearly physical, where he hasn’t actually hit her, but hit walls, doors and other inanimate objects near her. The instances of physical abuse may be few and far between or non-existent but only the threat has to exist for it to be very real abuse. Even if he tells you that he cannot be responsible for his actions if something you’re doing continues, that’s abuse. I bring these things to light because only if they are recognized can something be done about them. Our society has come a long way in fighting domestic abuse, but we still have a long way to go so let’s work on getting there, for the children’s sake and for the sake of the women who have suffered way too long.