Last month I asked who is the face of illiteracy and I approach you
today with a similar question. Can we really “see” who is being
affected by Domestic Violence? Oh sure, we can see the bruises and
other obvious signs. But, what about the people in relationships that
have not escalated that far?
What does control look and sound like? Where and how does restriction bear is face?
on this our last day of the month of October when we find ourselves
preparing costumes and
masks, I wonder if we could peel them back for a
second. I wonder if we used those Minion goggles to see beyond the
Wonder Woman and Superman facades that many around us bear. What are we
really missing? What words do we try to not hear that tell us
something else might be going on? None of us really know what happens
behind closed doors. None of us really know what our co-workers deal
with when they get home. None of us really know the story of the guy
and the kids in the line in front of us.
do”, you say. “She puts it all over social media. They are fine.” And,
I crack a smirkish grin from the left corner of my mouth and ask you to
In college I took a social psychology
class. One of the few that I remember most of what I learned and one of
the few that I still call to mind often in every day conversation.
Hindsight Bias, Pavlovian Response and Bystander Effect. All 3 terms I
use frequently (hey, I admitted a long time ago I was a BIG nerd). But,
also 3 things that I’ve wrestled with this month.
Hindsight Bias – reminds us of all the signs we should have seen and responded to:
need to ask Jeff if I can spend money on that.” – I’m not talking
refrigerators and couches here. Everyday stuff. Silly little purchases
that you would never think twice about getting “permission” for.
I couldn’t possibly live without her in my life.” – again, not an
affectionate, I love my partner kind of response, but a compelling draw
that you know keeps them in an unhealthy situation.
checking phone, “I’m just waiting for Cindy to call”/ “I need to be home
by 8:30, Jim doesn’t like me to be out late.” – signs pointing and
indicating to a dependency and control of time, how its spent, what is
done and who they are with.
- “He always tells me I’m fat or that I
can’t eat sweets, but I know he is doing it because he loves me and
wants me to look my best.” – controlling diet is one of the low hanging
fruits. Its easy to be manipulated into thinking that its about you and
your health. When you hear these “but” excuses…listen to the real
thing being said.
Pavlovian Response – learned behaviors instigated by a specific action
- loud noises and yelling are a big trigger for many
- when he gets home, she starts shuffling papers and indicating its time for you to leave
- early intervention is the key here – helps with the length of time to brainwashing
Bystander Effect – the thought and assumption that someone else will take care of it
- “I didn’t really see him hit her” – right, if you turn your head he won’t do it again.
don’t see those bruises around her wrist or when she accidentally
pulled her sleeve too high” – its hard. I worked in an after school
program when I was in college. I had been trained. I knew what I had
to do. She pushed up the sleeves on her windbreaker. It was 80 degrees
outside. No reason to wear a windbreaker and she had already refused
to take it off when we came in the classroom. A few days later she was
not in the room and had been removed from the school because she had
gone to live in a new home, a foster home in a different town. What I
saw was real. My gut reaction was right. I didn’t want to. But I had
- “I didn’t really see that mom grab and snatch up that
kid or use inappropriate language in the aisle at the grocery store” –
the big longing eyes of that kid looked up at you. Beckoned you to
listen and knowing that’s not the way you talked to your kids. They saw
another way out. Just ask the woman if you could help her with
something. Just offer a smile, a dollar, anything that could passify
and shift the moment.
- “I don’t hear my neighbor yelling the
F-word at his girlfriend in their backyard every night” – been there
done that. I cracked open the squeaky back door just enough to make
sure the elevated voices were saying what I thought they were. I was
going to step out there. Surely if he knew I was also in my backyard he
would do anything. Or, would he? Would he do something to me too?
all been there. (well, many of us have) The hairs on the back of our
neck stand up. We wanna throw a flag, the reddest of reds. We hear the
excuses and we know if they were said to us, we would not stand for
them. Yet we do. We pause, we listen and like the bystander….we
assume our friend is strong enough to say no or that they don’t want us
in thier business.
Girlfriend, let me tell you. She does. No one is fighting for her. He
needs you to hear the irrational talk she is using and tell him. Yes,
there will be “but” excuses and rebuttals. Yes, they will most likely
not listen and act immediately. But, they need an advocate; a voice of
reason. Speaking truth and connecting life. Safety – that’s really all
they want to know. The rest of the details can be figured out later.
So, what’ can you say/do?
- Simply….”What can I do?”
- “What do you need from me?” – a suit to interview? keep your kids?
now, but come back in a month, 6 months, 1 year. Celebrate their
successes. Don’t leave them hanging to slip back in to the situation.
It was safe and comfortable. That’s why they stayed their in the first
- Don’t blame them. Connect with their emotions (even
if you don’t agree or understand). “I get that.” or “You’ve invested a
lot in this.”
- Provide resources and options.
- Know what healthy relationships look like and reinforce those.
out a couple who has been married for 30 years and things are going
well. Ask them what that’s like, what works, what was the hard stuff?
counseling is not just for mess ups or people right before they get a
divorce. Life get’s messy. Sometimes even dating couples need to learn
how to connect better with each other.
Most of us are ALL OR NOTHING kind of people and dont realize that SOMETHING is sometimes ok. And Enough.
This post is part of the #NWArkCares
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