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Alleged domestic violence takes another life; know the danger signs

May 8, 2010

Imagine you are attacked on the street by a stranger. You fight back and escape, suffering only minor injuries. The next day, walking to your car in the morning, you see the same man again.

He says how sorry he is that he hurt you. He offers a fresh bouquet of roses. He says he drank too much. He promises it will never happen again.

Do you give him a second chance?

Of course you don’t. You run like hell the moment you see him

The only material difference between this scenario and domestic violence is that in domestic violence, you have or had an intimate relationship with the assailant. All other facts remain the same.

Yet when he’s a stranger, you run. When he’s your boyfriend or husband, you stay.

And, maybe, you die.

Photo of alleged domestic murder victim Yeardley Love

Yeardley Love. Photo from

The death of Yeardley Love, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, is yet another sick reminder of the extreme danger of domestic violence.

Yeardley was found dead in her off-campus apartment. The night before, a former boyfriend says, he shook her violently and Yeardley hit her head on a wall. Police say Yeardley’s body had obvious signs of battery, beyond a head injury. The ex has been charged with first-degree murder. He has plead not guilty, and his lawyer has said it was a tragic accident. An autopsy has been performed and as of this writing, the results have not yet been made public.

In response to the tragedy, Larry King Live last night dedicated the show to domestic violence. Tanya Brown, the sister of domestic abuse and murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, urged women in dangerous situations to get out before they are killed. Robin Givens, the victim of alleged spousal abuse at the hands of former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson, repeatedly urged women to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Haven’t we heard this all before?

A lot of attention is directed toward educating men on this issue, anger counseling, etc. But if I were a woman, I wouldn’t wait around for men to change. I’d learn as much as I can about the signs of danger, and I’d do my very best to look at my relationship objectively. Because that’s the hard part. Victims of domestic abuse often aren’t objective. They believe that the men who hit them really are sorry. They believe these men when they say it will never happen again. Therefore, they don’t get the help they need.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to evaluate the behavior of an intimate partner the way you would evaluate the behavior of a stranger. But if you have even the smallest reason to believe your husband or boyfriend could turn violent, you must be objective.

Recognizing the signs of impending domestic abuse

Gavin De Becker, an expert in threat assessment and management, offers a list of 30 risk factors that precede domestic abuse. Each is described in his book The Gift of Fear. (I highly recommend this book for everyone, not just domestic abuse victims.) Below are 15 of the 30 pre-incident indicators as described in the book.

  • The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
  • At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely pushing commitment, living together, and marriage.
  • He is verbally abusive.
  • He breaks or strikes things in anger.
  • He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse affects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).
  • He cites alcohol or drugs as excuses for violent conduct.
  • He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship.
  • He refuses to accept rejection.
  • He projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy, commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to feel those emotions.
  • He tries to enlist his wife’s or girlfriend’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.
  • He believes that those around his wife or girlfriend dislike him and encourage her to leave.
  • He resists change.
  • He suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry or depressed.
  • He consistently blames others for problems of his own making, refusing to take responsibility.
  • He experienced or witnessed violence as a child.

That is only half the list, but if you recognize some of these factors in your relationship or someone else’s, there is cause for serious concern. Be objective. Learn more. Seek help.

Visit the Web site for the National Domestic Violence Hotline to learn more about domestic violence, signs of abuse and ways to seek help.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-779-7233

Get The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker at your local library or buy The Gift of Fear from Amazon.

Just don’t sit back and convince yourself that things will be OK. If you see characteristics of your relationship in the list above, they probably won’t.


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