Opinion: Domestic violence rarely happens without warning

The signs of domestic abuse are sometimes subtle, but rarely ever does an explosive domestic violence event “come out of nowhere”.

Domestic abuse is ugly and complex. Many times, it makes no sense: How could it be that the person who is supposed to be the one who loves you the most also be the one who wants to hurt you? It’s not always black and white (or black and blue): the perpetrator of the abuse is typically not a horrible monster of a person. They aren’t always abusive. Sometimes, they are very loving and thoughtful. The path toward potentially lethal relationships isn’t always linear. Most often, the threatening behaviors of the perpetrator intensify over time. The victim is not always a weak and submissive person who exhibits low self-esteem. And the abuse is not always physical. Sometimes the most aggressive abusive tactics are like an emotional stab in the heart or threats to destroy what the victim holds most dear.

Domestic violence is motivated by a need for power and control in an intimate relationship. When power and control is threatened, the perpetrator uses a toolbox of behaviors and tactics to regain control or manipulate and retaliate against the victim. The perpetrator will often threaten the victim, use the children as pawns, make the victim out to be the villain, display a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality, but slowly exerts more and more energy toward gaining the upper hand. In the end, if the perpetrator has reached a point where they feel as if they are losing control of the relationship or their vision of how they want the relationship to be, there can be a violent- or fatal, event.