Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior which establishes power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat of violence. Not all domestic violence is physical. It can also be emotional abuse, psychological intimidation, threats, verbal abuse, stalking, isolation, and/or economic control.
Domestic violence is not necessarily a marital conflict but a family conflict and it completely changes the family dynamic, affecting every relationship that each member of the family has with each other, and with the outside world, in ways that are difficult for many to comprehend. Often, domestic violence offenders attempt to isolate their partners from friends and family in an effort to reduce outside influences. Victims of domestic violence – and their children – know that they are not to talk about what happens at home.
Victims and their children who witness domestic violence may exhibit what we on the outside think are unusual and puzzling behaviors. They may be quite withdrawn – probably in an effort to avoid contact with others that they think may jeopardize their safety. Although we may have no clue for witnesses, domestic violence is the elephant in the room. Children may appear easily frustrated, have poor social skills, and actually be violent to others. When you think about what they have seen, these behaviors don’t seem unusual at all. Victims of domestic violence are not always sweet, shy, demure and retiring. We know that sometimes by the time a law enforcement officer shows up, it may be hard to tell who the victim is and who the aggressor is. By that time, the victim switches to a different kind of survival mode – taking the blame herself so that she doesn’t get in worse trouble later on with her abuser; or yelling or otherwise being abusive to an offender when the police arrive because now it’s safe to do so.
So what can you do? Tell her it’s not her fault. Do not blame the victim. Listen to her. Don’t take her anger personally. Help her get help.