Domestic violence hides in plain sight
There continues to be widespread misunderstanding about violence in the family. News reports of the suicide committed by the man who held the police at bay for eight hours last Thursday contained comments made by neighbors and conclusions about the situation that we believe are the result of firmly held myths about domestic violence.
It seems a good time for us to offer some information to remind the community a little about domestic abuse.
Even in peaceful, quiet neighborhoods, such as that described by the Kapolei neighbors of the deceased man, domestic violence is probably happening -- behind closed doors and held as a secret. Abuse is a crime that is still very embarrassing to admit, and often makes victims feel as though it is their fault. Abusers rarely confide in others that they are committing any acts of abuse -- physical or verbal, sexual or psychological. Intimidation, isolation, withholding of economic resources (in cases where credit and property is in the name of one partner rather than both) may be difficult to see, or even minimized by others if the observation made is infrequent.
Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior. Physical violence is the easiest to see; the other forms are more subtle and easier to keep secret. Although, assaults aren't often observed either.
A mail carrier described the man who shot himself as a "super-friendly guy" and very family oriented. This man was described by police as a domestic violence suspect. To us that means there has been some abuse reported to someone at some time. A domestic abuse suspect in possession of guns is a very dangerous person. That, of course, does not prevent him from being very friendly to others, but does raise questions about how he treats his family.
The element of surprise that so many people experience is an interesting phenomenon. We always think this is a problem that happens to no one we know, or in other places, to people very different from us. At the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline we have come to understand that domestic abuse happens throughout the community, in different kinds of neighborhoods, to people of different socioeconomic classes, professionals, high school- or college-educated, parents, elderly and teens.
In order for us to bring peace to our island families, we must not dismiss this as a problem that has nothing to do with us.
Nanci Kreidman is executive director of the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline.