Domestic Violence: Observe the Signs, Speak the Signs, And Please Don't Ignore Them! by Fred Leland

As she spoke to me about what had just taken place, I noticed she was ashen gray almost pale in color mixed in with mascara and tinges of red marks around her neck and cheeks from the assault and attempt on her life that had just taken place. Through her uncontrollable crying I could not understand what she was saying. Eventually she was able to regain her composure and stated, “I think he would have killed me if were not for my five-year-old who jumped up, opened the hotel room door and ran and down the hall shouting for help. He released his grip from around my neck and took the pillow off my face and then ran out the door after the child, giving her enough time to call the police. I shouted to him that the police were coming. He told me he loved me and that he was leaving. With that he left.”

Once calm, she continued with her statement, “my boyfriend” who has a history of violence including Domestic Violence against her in the past, “we had a short argument over my soon to be ex-husband, he became so angry he grabbed me by the mouth and throat, threw me to the bed and said that he was going to kill me and that he did not care if he was sent to jail. He also told me that he would first rape me before he killed me. While he had me down he kicked me in the ribs. He also grabbed a nylon stocking and attempted to cover my mouth with it to keep me quiet.” She held her two young children and hugged them and told them all would be fine. She looked at me and told me if it was not for him, as she pointed to her five-year-old, he may have killed me.”

I was the cop who responded to this call. Upon arriving on scene I went from thinking about going home after a long double shift, to the seriousness of this incident and that I would do my best to help this woman. She said all the things inherent in dangerous domestic violence cases where the perpetrator is likely to murder the victim.

These signs included not only the assault and threat to kill that had just taken place, but the fact that, 1) the violence was getting more serious and more frequent and there is a continued history of abuse; 2) the woman involved believes that the perpetrator would have killed her and feels like she is in danger; 3) the abuse took place while she was pregnant; 4) the perpetrator shows violent and constant jealousy.

As I was taking notes as to what happened, I noted that these four signs were in the top five signs in the Dangerous Perpetrator Assessment. The fifth is, does the perpetrator have access to a gun? I asked the victim if he had access to a firearm, and she stated ‘Yes, he does have access to a gun” although she did not think he had any guns with him, and she had not seen him with a gun recently. But she new he had carried weapons in the past because at least six months ago he showed her one. All five signs of a Dangerous Domestic Violence Assessment were present.

The list of pre-incident indicators continued to mount in the short statement made by this victim. He stated he would rape her before he killed her, and he attempted to strangle her. There was a recent divorce; the children in the home were not the abusers; and the abuser had avoided arrest in the past for his vile acts against the victim. These signs and signals demonstrate a high risk of potential serious violence. All these signs came direct from the victim’s mouth as she recounted what had just occurred. Within moments of telling the story something else happened that I had seen before, although not in such a serious case (all cases of domestic violence are serious, and should be taken seriously) : she began to take the blame for her abuser’s actions and started to apologize for her actions. She stated that she could have prevented the violence from occurring. This is a common reaction of domestic violence victims. I told her that this was not her fault and that she, her two children and unborn child should walk away from this relationship now. I talked to her for three hours in an attempt to convince her to get a restraining order but she refused. Finally, as if to make me feel better, she decided to take my advice and get another room on the other side of the hotel so he could not find her if he returned.

A few hours later he did return, and was arrested, never knowing she was still there at the hotel. I spoke to him, and he lied about what happened as most abusers do. He stated that he and his girlfriend had been drinking, they had an argument and he “got a little out of hand”. He admitted to grabbing her and holding her down on the bed, but denied making any threats. After speaking with me for a while, he asked,’ are you going to talk with her again today?” I told him that I would. He asked me to do him a favor and, “Tell her ’I love her.’”

I went back up to the hotel and told the woman that a victim of domestic violence is someone at the hands of another who claims to love her in words but shows hatred and control in his actions, and urged her again to get a restraining order. She refused. She ignored the signs and signals. She failed to trust herself and her intuition that the situation was bad and that she may die at the hands of her boyfriend. She said she knew he did not mean to hurt her. “I love him,” she told me.

As individuals, we are the only ones who can change our view of the world and take the actions necessary to protect ourselves and keep us secure. When your observations and orientation of the world tells you--scream out at you--that you are in danger, you must listen to your inner voice and make decisions, often tough decisions, and take actions to keep you and those you love safe. Failure to see what’s right in front of you can cost you your life.

It haunts me to say that this case ended tragically a few weeks later only a couple of hours from the town where I work as a police officer. This victim, a young mother of two with a third on the way was murdered by her boyfriend despite the fact that the last words I heard from both of them were: I love her. I love him.

Domestic violence is a cruel and insidious crime. As victims, friends and loved ones, we see the writing of danger on the wall but too often ignore the signs. I know the cycle of violence and how it works because I have seen it countless times. Yet somehow good people who get caught up in tumultuous relationships fail to step outside their comfort zones and seek help in order to leave a bad relationship behind. It takes strength of character to face the dangerous relationships some of us find ourselves in. Failure to do so can lead to high stress and anxiety, depression and in some cases, death.

Using all of your powers of observation, please look out for actions that speak much louder than words when it comes to love in your own relationship, and the relationships of those you care about This simple point to remember will help you realize the type of relationship you are in and make the right decisions and actions to keep yourself safe.

Stay Oriented

Fred Leland