The raging red flags of domestic violence
Ask Judge Smith
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which began in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence as a Day of Unity to connect battered women’s advocates across the country. Leading up to October, is part 1 of a 4-part series on domestic violence.
Q. Judge Smith, what are the telltale signs of domestic violence? Teresa
A. Like rape, domestic violence is a crime of power and control. It is good advice not to start relationships with control freaks and to be extra careful when ending relationships with control freaks.
Why? Because control freaks are ticking time-bombs that will likely explode. When things don’t go their way, control freaks act out and inflict harm. Left unchecked, domestic violence can lead to dark places, including death. Some peoples’ lives are hell on earth because they live in constant fear for themselves, their children, and their pets.
Most domestic abusers follow predictable patterns of behavior and some of these telltale signs are so dangerous that they have been deemed “lethality factors.” These lethality factors are raging red flags that serve as harbingers of death, personal injury, psychological trauma, and property damage. Control freaks are most dangerous when they perceive they’re losing control. When that happens, they are more likely to act out, bully the target of their affections, and inflict harm.
Although both males and females commit domestic violence, a much higher percentage of the cases involve men hurting women. Domestic violence is universal. It occurs everywhere, among people of all races, income brackets, and sexual orientations.
A Baker’s Dozen of Lethality Factors:
A victim of domestic violence should be extra careful if her abuser:
1. Injures, attempts to injure, threatens to injure, or stalks her;
2. Injures, attempts to injure, threatens to injure, or stalks her children, family members, or pets;
3. Displays extreme fits of jealousy;
4. Escalates acts of physical and/or verbal abuse;
5. Commits acts of abuse in public;
6. Threatens suicide (increasing the odds of a murder-suicide);
7. Uses weapons or threatens to use weapons;
8. Restrains her from moving freely or calling law enforcement or others for help;
9. Destroys or takes her property;
10. Has mental health issues;
11. Has substance abuse issues;
12. Has a criminal history of doing or threatening violence; and/or;
13. Has already had a protective injunction entered against him.
Unless the cycle of violence ends, an abuser will simply move on to the next victim. Worse yet, an abuser’s children and grandchildren are more likely to become victims and perpetrators, too. Children exposed to domestic violence often grow up to be abusers too because it is a learned behavior.
Sooner or later there will be a day of reckoning. People who commit domestic violence risk losing loved ones and serving time in jail or prison.
The Honorable J. Layne Smith is a circuit judge and author of the bestselling book “Civics, Law, and Justice–How We Became U.S.” Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.