The worst part of my domestic violence was that there was no end date. I never knew when it would happen and I never knew if it would ever end. And even when I left , I remained on the look out. Truth be told, I , like most victims of domestic violence was unable to leave, He literally kicked me out on the streets, with my kids and my personal belongings – no bed. He had begun an affair with one of my best friends and I was in the way as he wrestled to win her over from her husband,
The most head banging part about it is that this is a person who professes to love you , who shares a home with you and your children . I learned as I cowered behind locked doors and cupboards into which I was pushed, that home is the most unsafe space for women. A combination of factors led me , like millions of women , into this domestic terrorism . Domestic Terrorism is a phrase I have taken from Rachel Louise Snyder, journalist and author of her award winning new book : No Visible Bruises: What we don’t know about Domestic Violence can Kill us “
The perpetrator is charming , loving , affable.Things move so fast and within no time at all, you are living together, perhaps pregnant with his child. In a while you discover that he , like most perpetrators of domestic terrorism , is a narcissist and ticks all the boxes of toxic masculinity. He uses tactics to monitor and control you,, you who becomes a “passive hostage ” in your own home. Its called “coercive control ”
I fiercely object to anyone asking an abused woman why she stays . Ill tell you why she stays. To live. To keep herself and her children alive. It is far more dangerous to leave. According to Snyder, she is actively and stealthily trying to leave. , working within the system that exists and taking steps , with extreme vigilance, doing everything she can to escape. It is a process. It is never just one event. Leaving is a triumph of being able to stay alive in this domestic terrorism while plotting a way out of the war zone.
Consider what you have done, or what you did, before finally physically leaving : like most victims, perhaps you too bide your time, make a plan , Keep your children safe. maybe you too are constantly scanning for when you can slip away alive. People get confused ,even angry, when you side with him publicly, to family, police and prosecutors . Once the police /family leave you are left with the abuser and have to constantly negotiate staying alive and keeping your children alive. This is a measured calculation toward your future safety.. Do not judge this woman who is trying to stay alive !
You have learned how to calm him down when he is angry, plead , beg, cajole and show solidarity. You remain alive !
Perhaps you are one of the many women who laid a charge, or even got a restraining order – and then recanted. Hold your head up high ! There is no shame in this action . it was a matter of life and death, right ?! You did not lie. . You did it to keep yourself and your children alive. You did it because you know how this action provokes your abuser . And you just cant see that you have another choice.
South Africa has one of the highest incidences of femicide. A woman is being murdered every four hours in our country, where at least half of these women die at the hands of their intimate partners. To supplement these findings, researchers from the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit found that in cases where a perpetrator had been identified, 57.1% of the murders were by an intimate partner. ‘South Africa’s femicide rate is five times more than the global rate.’
Snyder is definitive in her statement : why victims stay is not the question we need to be asking. A better question to ask is : how do we protect her?
I want to save your life. I want to offer you protection .
30 years ago Jacquelyn Campbell created the Danger Assessment
It is the single most important tool used in the USA in intimate partner assault , treatment and awareness today. It determines whether you will live or die. It is a tool that is used by police , health care providers and the judicial system . Campbell identified 22 high risk factors that portend a potential homicide. It is not a single factor but combination of various factors that place you at risk of being killed.
if you are in an abusive intimate relationship, I invite you to follow this process:
- Keep a timeline of the incidents, a catalogue of abuse . This is a way for you to see if there is an escalation of the abuse .
- Go through the Danger Assessment .
- Tick off your risk factors. These risk factors are a summary of the Danger Assessment . Remember it is a variety of combinations of these factors that determine your risk of being killed, , from high too low
HIGH RISK FACTORS TO FEMICIDE /HOMiCIDE :
- Substance abuse
- Gun ownership
- Extreme jealousy
- Threats to the children
- Controlling your daily activities
- Destruction of property
- Victims attempt to leave any time during past year.
- Chronic unemployment
- Lethality signs :
- Threats to kill you
- Forced sex
- Isolation from friends /family
- A child from a different biological parent in the household
- Abuser’s threat of suicide
- Violence during pregnancy
- Prior incidence of domestic violence.
All fo these can make a volatile situation deadly.
Strangulation , however, is the most significant marker of future homicide. 60% of domestic violence victims are strangled at some point during an abusive relationship., often multiple times. Snyder reports that the act of strangulation often turns out “to be the penultimate abuse by a perpetrator before a homicide”.
Domestic violence can kill you. I know you stay because you know leaving could mean the end of your, and your children’s, life. Keep reaching to others for support , tell your story to someone safe and trustworthy. – safely and strategically. Do the Danger Assessment just so you know how much danger you are really in . This realisation could motivate you to keep plotting and planning to get out.
For more information on domestic , personal , intact violence, contact me.