Julie Federico



Anatomy of Domestic Violence: How to Prevent Domestic Violence

The purpose of this blog is to describe the anatomy of domestic violence. “You can’t change what you do not understand.” Marilyn van Derbur

My thinking is if I can get people to understand domestic violence then I can get people to begin to prevent domestic violence. Domestic violence needs to be changed, doesn’t it? Abusing women and children is so say, outdated, isn’t it?

This is my first low lying, semi harmless, an elementary type of domestic violence story. I will share domestic violence descriptions that outsiders will not understand and insiders, those living with domestic violence will understand all too well. As I share these awful events there are continual themes that will run throughout the stories. Power, control, and manipulation are the top three. There are other themes but domestic violence starts with the premise that “ I am better than you. My needs matter more than yours, and in fact, since your needs don’t matter, I don’t even want to hear about them. If you feel that you must continue to share your insignificant needs, they will be dismissed every time.” Who would sign up for this?
I did.

Inside the DNA of domestic violence is that you are insignificant and unworthy and so undeserving of love. The worse I can make you feel about yourself and break you down the more likely your shattered self will continue to stay with me. The breaking down does not come all in one day, it is a series of events that happen several times a day, every day. I can chronicle thousands of these breaking down events that occurred in my relationship. They could fill volumes of books but I think it is significant to re-tell my first two encounters with power and control that lead to a pattern of domestic violence. I don’t think abusers play all of their cards at the beginning of a relationship. I know they don’t, this would be way too easy to spot. There is a long courting phase where the abuser is trying maneuvers out on you. Some people would exit a relationship based on these two stories, or even one of these two stories. I am forgiving, loyal, and I always give people the benefit of the doubt. My personality was the perfect drug for my abuser. He mainlined me every day. Other people would have left, blocked his phone number, and moved onto greener pastures. I did not recognize the warning signs as I do now. That is the purpose of these stories to educate the uneducated, to help end domestic violence. Thanks for reading! The domestic violence description is not pretty but the story needs to be told to educate others on how to stop domestic violence. Domestic violence can be stopped.

I dated my husband for three years before we were married. There was not a parade of red flags in his behavior that signaled the abusive behavior that was to come. He was pleasant, agreeable, fun, easy-going, and enjoyable to be around. When I rewind and view our three years of dating very few if any red flags were present. I think this is one of his personality skills to pretend to be someone he is not. He was and is very, good at creating this false self. The few incidents that I did witness did not lead me to draw the conclusion that he was dangerous, a narcissist, and we should break up.

October 1994. I had known my future husband for three months. In those three months we saw each other frequently, he made time in his schedule to walk the park with me after work and made dinner with me. On the weekends we went to the movies or spent time with friends. He was new to the city so I spent some time being the happy tour guide.

In mid-October, I came down with a nasty case of the flu. It struck suddenly and all I could manage to do was let my car coast on autopilot from work towards home. I could not stop at the store to buy the obligatory Aspirin, 7-up, and chicken soup. I got home, drew the blinds, crawled into bed, and placed a phone call to him. He said, “I’ll be right over.” I was thankful. When he came in, he was visibly annoyed. He had never seen me functioning at any level less than 100%. I was pale, feverous, and lying in bed. I said, “I am sick.” He said, “Where is your aspirin? Do you have any chicken soup?” I said, “No.” He went on a rage saying things like, “I can’t believe you are out of aspirin. Why do you not have any chicken soup?” Being someone who suffered from migraines I was never without this mandatory pharmacy item. I think this was the only time in my life that I was without aspirin in the house or car. He said, “Do you have 7-up? Do you have chicken soup?” But these were not simple questions they were accusations and his voice escalated with each question. I said I was too sick to go to the store. He said, “Well how are you going to get better if you don’t have these things?” He started rifling through my kitchen cabinets and found some soup and made it. What confused me was that his reaction to the situation and his intensity did not match the actual situation. He made me feel awful that I was out of these items. How could I let this happen? What kind of a low life person runs out of these staples? I found myself defending my lack of necessary resources then regretted that I did not call another friend instead of him. I don’t remember if he went out to the store as a sain person would have. I know he made the soup then left because he did not want to catch my illness. I remember thinking after this cloud had passed, “Boy, he does not really have a good bedside manner, does he?” But he had so many other positive qualities that I let this slide and we never spoke of it again. After I recovered, I remember buying several cans of chicken soup and three bottles of aspirin. This fact is fairly significant and replicated itself in our relationship more times than negative campaigns aids run on prime time television during election season. He got angry because I was out of flu supplies. Then I respectfully reformed my behavior to decrease his anger. I went shopping as soon as humanly possible because I did not want to come across this angry man again. I thought counterproductively if I never run out of aspirin again, I will never witness such hostility and unnecessary anger. This was my fatal flaw like when someone chooses to leave the site of a plane crash rather than deciding to stay with the wreckage and wait for help. Once the decision to leave the plane is made troubles begin to mount like an oncoming tsunami. I should have confronted his behavior, not try and compensate for it. This started a gambler’s addiction that continues to this day. I am still compensating for his negative choices. He will not provide our daughters with unconditional love so I am constantly trying to provide this in abundance for them and filling in the holes he has carelessly creates with pride.

The second time I witnessed his unpredictable anger was October 1996. We had just arrived in Mexico and were taking a cab from the airport to our hotel. I was thrilled to be there. I had never been out of the country before I was high on the humid air and the promise of a week at the beach. We were enjoying our ride to the hotel we had just sailed through customs since he was a native Spanish speaker. He looked at me like he had just lost his keys just before leaving for work and said, “Do you have a dollar to tip the driver?” I said, “No.” He said with more urgency than I ever use for everyday events, “You don’t have a dollar?” Then he escalated, “ I can’t believe you don’t have a dollar!” I said, “I don’t have change yet. I only have 20’s.” Then he said it more angrily, “I can’t believe you don’t have a dollar!” Like he just didn’t say this one minute earlier. I said, ”Do you have a dollar?” He said, “No.” Somehow his “No” was enough for me to comprehend. I did not ask the question again. I did not make him pay or feel like a second class citizen for not having the required change. Then he said again with more anger than necessary, “I can’t believe you don’t have a dollar!” I said nothing. I looked out the window wondering how in fact I did wind up in this cab without one US dollar.

I thought this behavior was so random and so bizarre it was almost funny to see someone getting all worked up over 8 pesos, which was the exchange rate for a dollar. I did not analyze this behavior for significant clues. Being the archeologist that I am today I should have asked, “Why is it solely up to me to provide the tip to the driver?” More importantly, you don’t have a dollar either. So why am I the one getting yelled at for this?” We both didn’t have change for the cabbie. It is not life-threatening. Let’s problem solve, how about you go into the hotel when we get there and get some change? That would be too simple, but more importantly, this was not part of his plan. This conversation and exchange were not about change at all. It was a way to throw me off balance and prove that he was in control of this relationship and called all of the shots. As they say, “Hein sight is 20/20.” Oh, how wish I had seen these signs. His abuse was like childbirth pains at first the contractions are days apart then they slowly become closer and closer together without any real warning. Near the end, there is barely time to catch your breath before the next wave of pain is upon you. Our relationship was like this. The abuse started out slow and oh, so subtle. Then the last few years of our marriage the abuse was daily, several times a day. It did not matter what I did it was never good enough for him. He held a standard of some miscellaneous issue over me. When I worked and reached the standard he set, he would then change what he wanted. My accomplishments were always unrewarded as the end result of what he wanted was always changing without warning.

What these two stories tell is the tip of the iceberg. I did not know at the time that I had stumbled upon on iceberg. I blew off these two incidences and did not give them the honor or respect that they demanded. If I had confronted him on these issues, I would have learned that yes, it was my fault that I became ill with no chicken soup. There would not be any grace for me in my relationship with him this was the bottom line. Whether I was without chicken soup or one US dollar. This was the standard it never changed only got increasingly worse as the years went on. I think both of these items from his standpoint were calculated. He wanted to see if I would react negatively. I did not. I made sure I was never in a cab with him again without change, I had more aspirin in my house than the legal limit. I should have thrown this all back and him and said something like, “People run out of soup. You have never run out of chicken soup?” “Why are you being such a nightmare, I am the one who is ill. You are supposed to take care of me! Get out never come back who knows what I might be out of next!!” Oh, how I wish I had said this. If you are reading this and the stories hit home in a way that you think I might be following you around town. Be aware, be alert, do not marry this man. Please listen to me.

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