Tag Archives: domestic violence

A different kind of movie review: Domestic violence in Water for Elephants

23 Jun

I went to see Water for Elephants when it was in theaters knowing nothing about the story. I enjoyed the movie’s premise, it’s cinematic stuff (as much as the next average movie-goer), and the 1930’s era elements. Even Robert Pattinson was bearable – dare I say likable. Compared to August, Jacob was a downright hero and you hoped he’d get the girl. I realized as the movie progressed that not only was August a perpetrator of domestic violence, but that his behavior and personality were textbook batterer. Everything about him was right on track.

  1. August married Marlena, who was a young and abused girl. The more vulnerable someone is (because of their age, past abuse, home life, living situation, etc.), the more likely it is for them to be targeted and then victimized.
  2. Marlena tried to excuse August’s temper, controlling behavior, and physical domination over her by his consumption of alcohol. Although it is common for perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse alcohol, it is not the cause or reason for their abusing.
  3. August abused the circus animals, which he knew were dear to Marlena’s heart. Abusing animals for the purpose of intimidation and cruelty to their wife, girlfriend or partner is a tactic of abusers.
  4. Although August correctly suspected Marlena and Jacob of having an affair, it’s not much to assume that August didn’t also falsely accuse Marlena of other affairs. To me she acted like his accusations were familiar. Often, abusers will fabricate stories of infidelity just to have a reason to yell at, berate, and name-call their partner.
  5. In the end, August tries to kill Marlena. Domestic violence homicide does happen – there were 543 of them in the United States in 2009. Sometimes the lethality of an abusive relationship comes into question when other factors are in play, like they were with August:
  • the abuser is assaultive during sex
  • weapons are present
  • the abuser starts letting others see his abusive tendencies, rather than keeping it in the home
  • the victim has begun a new relationship
  • the perpetrator abuses the victim while intoxicated
  • the abuser is depressed
  • the abuser is preoccupied or obsessed with the victim
  • the abuser has a history of assaultive behavior against others

“Why doesn’t she just leave him?”

17 Feb

So, let me get this straight: her husband beats her up? And she hasn’t left yet? I don’t understand women who stay around just to be slapped around.

So, you’re calling this abuse: your live-in boyfriend gives you crap about talking to your mom, and would rather you spend time with him than be out with your friends all the time. And he doesn’t want you to have to take care of the money. Where’s the problem?

So, this is your excuse: you don’t want to leave your abusive partner because of the kids. And you say that he has a big enough name to convince people that you’re crazy. And this is what’s stopping you from leaving?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Let’s unpack these scenarios. By doing so, I’ll be addressing what domestic violence is, and why it’s always more complicated for the victim than “just leaving.”

Scenario 1: She loves her husband. He was nice and caring before, but now she never knows what will set him off into a rage. It’s like living with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He stands tall and yells in her face, but doesn’t often hit to leave bruises. Instead, he pushes her, strangles her, and pulls her hair. He also humiliates her sexually, and coerces her to do things she doesn’t like.  Every time she threatens to go stay with her mother, he starts crying and tells her that he wants to change. “I’ll be better, I promise. I love you.” She wants so badly to believe him; she gives him another chance.

What’s going on here:

  • one-way love
  • intimidation
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • manipulation

Scenario 2: “Giving her crap” about talking to her mom really means that he threatens to hurt her if she tries. He also threatens to hurt her mom and the rest of the family. Furthermore, he makes her feel guilty and slutty if she wants to go out with girlfriends. He constantly accuses her of cheating. He often takes her cell phone. Whenever she tries to get a job, he makes her feel guilty for it. He says she’s too lazy and incompetent to have a job, anyway. They share a car, and he refuses to let her use it when she wants.

What’s going on here:

  • threatening
  • false accusations
  • isolation
  • financial abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • emotional abuse

Scenario 3: The partner could be locally well-known lawyer, law enforcement officer, or public official. He refuses to have his reputation ruined by his partner, who wants to take the kids and leave. The partner has friends in high places – the sorts of places where he would seek help to flee. The abuser tries to convince colleagues, friends, and the children that his partner is paranoid. But even he could convince someone of the abuse, how could he leave without money? The partner is the educated one. There is no way that without support from family, friends, the community, and without job training, that this man could leave and make a new life while supporting himself and his children.

What’s going on here:

  • lack of support
  • financial obstacles
  • lying
  • manipulation
  • using the children

These are not all the tactics that domestic violence perpetrators use to exert power and control over their victims, nor are they all the obstacles that victims face.

For more information and resources:

Jewish Women International

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National 24-hour hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel