This is Part 2 in a week-long series of posts written by a Wheelock College Social Work faculty member and two Masters in Social Work graduate students in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. View previous posts in this series – Part 1.
*Trigger warning: some of this article may include descriptions of domestic violence that could be distressing for some readers.
One client shared her story of how charming her abuser was in the beginning of the relationship. He would buy her flowers before each date, and as she was falling in love he invited her to move into his place. He told her he would provide for her and she could quit her job to raise her child. Once she moved in and quit her job he began putting her down. He would tell her she was a bad mother and a bad cook. He also began isolating her by telling her that her friends were trashy and they were not allowed to come to his apartment. Time goes by and the relationship is stable until the next incident. One night she is communicating with her child’s father and her abuser demands that he have access to her Facebook passwords and text messages because he thinks she is cheating on him. The fight escalates to a level where he punches her in the face so hard that he breaks her nose. She receives medical attention, but does not press charges because he comes in with flowers saying he is so sorry and it will never happen again. “If she just doesn’t talk to other guys they wouldn’t have to fight in the first place.” As time passes he minimizes what happened and another incident begins escalating. A neighbor calls the police and when they arrive they arrest him for assault and battery from when he broke her nose. While he is with the police she goes to the court to get a restraining order. When the trial comes she feels terrible that charges are being pressed against him, and his family is pressuring her not to go forward with this “because it will ruin his life.” She feels awful seeing this happen to someone she loves so much. She decides to get back together with him and drop all of the charges, including the restraining order in hopes that he will change so they can make their relationship better.
I chose to share this story because it highlights the predictable pattern of behaviors that abusers use to gain and maintain power and control over their intimate partner. Abusers can be extremely charming, and once they get their partner to fall in love with them they slowly begin engaging in subtle behaviors to control their partner. These behaviors increase in severity and frequency with time. The more an abuser can isolate and control their partner’s behaviors the easier it becomes for them to abuse their partner. In this story, she had lost all of her friends, so she had no one to turn to for support. She went back to her abuser because she had no where to go, she had no place of her own, she had no money to support her or her child, and she loved him and wanted to make things work. This story displays the various forms of abuse that impact a survivor and the variety of barriers they face when trying to leave an abusive partner.
Wheelock College MSW Candidate