*   You can watch the award winning movie Private Violence on HBO on Demand for the next two months. Highly recommend  *

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I’m one of those people who believes every month should be Domestic Violence Awareness Month just like every month should be Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The reason increasing everyone’s awareness of DV is so vital is that domestic violence is very common (more common then you think)!  It doesn’t just affect low income people, or people who don’t know how to stand up for themselves, or people who secretly like drama or people who just don’t get it.  Often times, the victim themselves aren’t even aware they are in a DV situation.  Why?  Because abusers aren’t stupid.  I read once that if abusers acted like jerks all the time no one would ever date them so they certainly aren’t going to do that.  Their abuse is tricky, it’s subtle, and by the time the victim figures out they are involved with an abuser they are now in danger.  Leaving is dangerous.

They need help!

So what happens once the victim figures out they are in a dangerous situation?  Often times, the mind has a sort of stop gap thing that it does.  If the mind allowed you to feel all the fear at once, it might be too much.  So it puts a denial film in place and feeds the true reality to you in doses.  Add this denial to the legitimate fear then add that to never having been in a situation like this before, again add the “back and forth” mixed way the abuser acts (nice most time, abusive on the off days) and it’s a recipe for confusion.

Now let’s add the fact that most people don’t like to think about abusers even existing and they aren’t educated about them.  The public has the stop gap, too.  We all want to live in a nice world with fairies and butterflies.  Since the average public doesn’t understand, the victim now has no one to go to ask for help.  That’s where domestic violence shelters and advocates come in.  THEY GET IT.  THEY’VE HAD THE NECESSARY TRAINING.  They get it even when you don’t.  They know how to create a plan and how to help get you out safely.

There is a book by Dr. John Gottman called When Men Batter Women.  He did longitudinal studies on DV cases and what he found was that even after the woman left the abuser and had been gone for ten years, when the men were interviewed (men that broke the women’s bones they were so violent) the men *still* thought the woman was to blame.  I’m paraphrasing but they said things like “She was my soul mate and I miss her but that woman is crazy!”

What is this phenomenon?  The simple term is blame shifting.  But this blame shifting is so deep the abuser actually believes it’s the other person doing the abusing.  They have everything twisted.  With belief that strong, they could get anyone else to believe it, too, provided they have an untrained ear.  These men could get the police to side with them after the woman calls the police on him.  This twist is evidenced, in OJ Simpson’s case, him writing a suicide letter saying, “I often felt like a battered husband” after he ran from the police.  (Also in the book When Men Batter Women).  And didn’t OJ get the jury to side with him in spite of overwhelming evidence?  This should tell you how manipulative these individuals are.

But public awareness is growing and needs to keep growing.  Dangerous people are real.  There was once a time when Child Protective Services didn’t exist.  People didn’t believe someone could hurt their own child.  A book called, “A Child Called It” did a great service in creating awareness for the need for CPS.  If child abusers are real, so are domestic abusers.  They are people who don’t have a stop gap on their ability to not act out in dangerous ways.  They have no limits.

If you are in a dangerous situation, please get some help.  Go to a domestic violence advocate like prevailofhamiltoncounty.com, go to the police, or find a therapist who understands DV.  Get a plan in place.  Just because you go to Prevail does not mean you’ll be forced to do a restraining order.  It means there are therapists that are trained to help you.  Your plan needs to be individualized for your situation.