Behind Closed Doors: Fear and intimidation tell the real truth about domestic violence

Behind Closed Doors
Fear and intimidation tell the real truth about domestic violence
By Judy Chaet
Sheila walked into my office; she was a bundle of nerves. She looked down at her hands, which were twisting a handkerchief round and round between her fingers. She had come back in to talk about her problem (she was having trouble sleeping and remembering things). The first thing she said was, “I’m not one of those battered women — he doesn’t hit me.”
Sheila and I met many times over the next six months. Her story came out in bits and pieces. It was true: he didn’t’ hit her, except for that one time — the time he broke her jaw, her cheekbone and her favorite mixing bowl (all over the kitchen). After that, he never hit her again. But there was the time he cut the cord to the telephone, and wouldn’t let her fix it — because she talked to her 85- year- old mother too much. There was the time he threatened to kill her twin sister, if she ever left him. There were the times he kept her awake all night, telling her what a lousy mother she was and that she couldn’t even keep the house clean. And then there was the time he hanged her dog in the garage, because she couldn’t make it stop sleeping on the sofa.
The thing about domestic violence is that it is insidious — it is, by definition, private and “behind closed doors.” The true depth and impact of the violence are almost impossible to quantify. Was Sheila a battered woman? YES. The number of hits, or who hit whom first, does not define abuse. It is, rather, a pattern of behavior. Was Sheila afraid of her husband? You bet.
The more telling point is who has the power — and who is afraid. One partner in a relationship may have been the one to “hit first,” this time. But what went on in the hours or days before that hit? Domestic violence goes far beyond the physical violence. It is also the coercion and threats, the sexual abuse, the intimidation, the isolation, the economic abuse, the use of the children as a threat (or to make her feel guilty). And, most often, it is the minimizing of that abuse – the denial and the blame.
The minimizing, denial and blame are all cruelly intentional acts designed to make the victim feel responsible for the abuse. Sheila believed that her actions were the cause of his violently abusive behavior.

We have all been taught from infancy that the well-being of homes, families and marriages is the responsibility of women. When there are problems in these arenas, we look to the women first: “Where was she while the children were doing that?”“Why does she stay?” These are the questions we are used to hearing, and asking. These are the questions that battered women ask themselves. And these questions are reinforced by everything that batterers tell their victims: If it’s her fault, then there must be something she can do to stop the abuse. But the truth is there is nothing she can do to stop the abuse:
it is the batterer’s intentional choice to batter.

DVIP: What makes it hard to be a man in today’s society?

What makes it hard to be a man in today’s society?

These are the expectations that society has for men that it does not have for women (this does not mean that women are to blame for men’s hardship because women are socialized into their sex roles just as men are socialized into theirs).

What are some of society’s expectations of men?

Yell at people
Have no emotions
Get good grades
Stand up for themselves
Don’t cry
Don’t make mistakes
Don’t back down
Push people around
Can “take it”

Men are:
In control
Dominant over women

Is male privilege really beneficial for men?

It is time to look more closely at the current roles for men, and make a conscious decision as to whether it is beneficial to continue upholding these ideas of male privilege.

Neither man, nor society, can afford to continue to ignore the harmful effects that their present roles have on them. Because of systematic or regular abuse done to men by society, they hurt others because they are hurt.
Men are the primary victims of violence in our society. In addition to being the primary victims of violence, men are also the primary perpetrators of violence, and not just toward women. Gang violence today tells us that this is only part of the story. So does the fact that rape among incarcerated men equals or exceeds that of women.
Men are using the very scripts that they have honored from generation to generation to unleash violence against each other.

What happens when a man moves away from any of society’s expectations?
He has ‘reduced” himself, according to society, to being like a woman. He has emasculated himself. How do we know this? Because of the names that other men, and even women, call men that do this. I’m sure you can think of some.
With so much at stake, is it easier to see how men could develop an attitude of contempt toward women? Even women they love?

DVIP: Behavioral Characteristics of a Domestic Violence Batterer

Behavioral Characteristics of a Domestic Violence Batterer


Batterers are found in all socioeconomic, educational, ethnic, racial, and age groups.



  • Use psychological, verbal, and physical abuse, including sexual abuse.
  • Engage in excessive minimization and denial.


The batterer is characterized by:

  • Poor impulse control, limited tolerance for frustration, explosive temper – rage. Constantly demonstrating but often successfully masking anger.
  • Stress disorders and psychosomatic complaints; sophistication of symptoms and success at masking dysfunction vary with social and educational levels.
  • Emotional dependency – subject to secret depressions known only to family.
  • Limited capacity for delayed reinforcement – very “now” oriented.
  • Insatiable ego needs and qualities of childlike narcissism (not generally detectable to people outside family group).
  • Low self-esteem; perceives unachieved ideals and goals for self; disappointment in career, even if successful by others’ standards.
  • Qualities which suggest great potential for change and improvement; i.e., makes frequent “promises” for the future.
  • Perception of self as having poor social skills; describing relationship with mate as the closest he has ever known while remaining in contact with his family of origin.
  • Accusations against mate, jealousy, voicing great fear of abandonment or “being cheated on,” possessive, controlling, hovering behavior.
  • Fearfulness that partner and/or children will abandon; fear of being alone.
  • Containment of mate and employment of espionage tactics against her (checking mileage/times, errands); cleverness depends on level of sophistication.
  • Violating others’ personal boundaries; accepts no blame for failure (marital, familial, or occupational) or for violent acts.
  • Belief that forcible behavior aimed at securing the family nucleus is for the good of the family.
  • Absence of guilt on an emotional level even after intellectual recognition.
  • Generational history of abuse.
  • Frequently participating in pecking order battering.
  • Assaultive skills which improve with age and experience (increase in danger potential and lethality risks to family members over time).
  • Demanding and oftentimes assaultive role in sexual activities; sometimes punishes with abstinence; occasionally experiencing impotence.
  • Increasingly assaultive behavior when the mate is pregnant – pregnancy often marks the first assault.
  • Exerting control over mate by threatening homicide and/or suicide. Often attempts one or both when partners separate – known to complete either or both.
  • Frequently using children as “pawns” and exerting power and control through custody issues; may kidnap children or hold them hostage.


Profile of MALE Abuser

Abusers may have some or all of the following characteristics:


  • Excessively jealous
  • Isolates victim (she may rarely go anywhere alone; visitors rarely allowed)
  • Controls victim (makes all decisions; demands accounting of time & actions)
  • Denies beatings or minimizes severity
  • May be more violent when she is pregnant or soon after birth
  • Blames victim for his abusive behavior
  • Uses verbal abuse with physical abuse (insults, mind games, etc.)
  • If victim leaves, he does whatever it takes to get her back (apologizes, sends flowers, cries, begs forgiveness, begs her to come home, promises to get counseling)
  • When victim returns, promises are systematically broken
  • Jekyll and Hyde personality
  • From a dysfunctional family
  • Low/No self-esteem (builds himself up at victim’s expense)
  • Thinks he’s never wrong and never lies – knows everything and everyone
  • Believes myths about abuse
  • Strongly believes in traditional sex roles
  • Feels persecuted – maybe mentally ill
  • Treats victim like a servant/very demanding
  • Must always have his way
  • Reacts violently to criticism
  • Preaches his own religion
  • Is very creative, imaginative and artistic
  • Is capable of fooling untrained authorities (doctors, lawyers, judges)
  • Is in control of his abuse (can – and does – become suddenly civil if someone walks in on the abuse; will only injure to a certain point – that which will ensure compliance)

Profile of FEMALE Victim

Victims may have some or all of the following characteristics:


  • Socially isolated – lonely
  • Blames herself for the beatings
  • Accepts responsibility for her abuser’s behavior
  • Feels she has no power or control
  • Feels ambivalent or confused
  • Embarrassed to admit she is being abused or that she is in a violent, abusive relationship – denial
  • Low/No Self-esteem
  • Believes she cannot survive alone
  • Is highly stressed – terrified – fighting to stay alive
  • Exhibits stress-related physical ailments or problems
  • Believes myths about abuse
  • Denies her anger over the abuse – but explodes over minor irritations
  • Exhibits depression
  • Is fearful of many things, like making a mistake
  • Believes in traditional sex roles
  • Puts needs/feelings of others far above her own
  • Mood is determined by abuser’s disposition
  • Unable to make a decision without abuser’s approval
  • Believes that nothing can ever help her
  • Does what it takes to survive – lies, denies, defends abuser
  • Endures additional abuse to protect children
  • Prays silently






DVIP Example Assignment: Intimidation

DVIP Assignment
Name __________________
Intimidation is the use of actions, words and sometimes looks that are meant to frighten, scare and/or bully a person. (Past use of physical violence increases the impact of intimidation on her).
– Giving angry looks and stares that mean, “You’re going to be sorry for this.”
– Slamming doors, throwing things, punching or kicking walls or furniture.
– Standing in a way to crowd her or stand over her in an intimidating way.
– Yelling and screaming.
– Walking around like you are about to blow up so everyone has to walk on eggshells around you.
– Tearing up or ruining things she gave you or you gave her.



Contract for Participation in DVIP

Contract for Participation in DVIP
Name__________________________ date__________
Court Ordered______ Volunteer ____
______I understand I am enrolling in the DVIP______ or the Ace_____ Program.
______I agree to attend group sessions on _______ from at the YWCA. I will begin groups on _______________ and agree to attend ______ groups.
______I understand that I cannot miss more than ______ group sessions. The only excused absences are a death in the family or a health emergency. The absence must be verified by the proper authorities. If I miss more I will be terminated, have to start over, will not get credit for classes attended up to my termination, and pay any outstanding fees I may owe.
______I understand I will not be allowed into group if I am more than 5 minutes late
______I understand I will not be allowed into group if it is suspected I have been drinking or using drugs 24 hours before group, and I will not get credit for the group.
_____I understand DVIP will report to referring agencies, if any, my attendance or my termination.
______I agree not to be violent with anyone during my participation in group sessions. Any violent acts, verbal or physical will be reported and I will be terminated from the program.
______I will refer to my partner or victim by their first name. I will respect the facilitator and others in the group. If I disrespect anyone while in group, I will be asked to leave and not receive credit for that group.
I understand I must pay $________ each week and will not get behind. If I am behind in my payments, I will not be allowed to stay in group. I must call Janet Boudreau at 810-238-7621 ext. 309 before I am allowed back into group.

_____I understand if I leave class early, am out of the room for an extended period of time, or sleep through class, I will not be given credit for the class.
_____I understand NO guns, knives, or any type of weapons will be allowed in the YWCA building. Any violation of this rule is grounds for immediate termination.
_____I understand cell phones must be turned off during group sessions. I will be asked to leave if it goes off during group sessions and will not get credit for the class.
______I agree I will not wear any offensive clothing in groupsessions. I will cover up any offensive tattoos.
______I understand if I have any questions or concerns, I can contact:
Janet Boudreau
DVIP Coordinator
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Services
810-238-1621 ext 309
Confidentiality is Limited
A. Client agrees to have limited confidentiality while attending DVIP/ACE groups. Release öf ihformation will aIlo contact between the program and anyone listed on the release of information
B. Client recognizes and agrees that whatever is discussed in group sessions by other group members will remain confidential with other client identities.
I have read this contract and understand and agree with the requirements of the program
Participant Signature___________________________________Date____________________
Witness Signature ______________________________________Date____________________

Rules for Participation in DVIP

1. You are not excused if you have: car problems, childcare problems, are working, or just cannot attend group that night. The only absences excused would be a death in the family or a health emergency with documentation.
2. You will not be allowed to make up a class unless you talk with Janet. If you sit in on another group without permission, no credit will be given for that group.
3. If you are more than five minutes late you will not be allowed to stay in group. You must remain in group for the entire two hours to receive credit for the group.
4. You must remain current with your weekly fees. If you are behind and do not pay, you will be asked to leave and will need to contact Janet before the next group.
5. Cell phones must be turned off while in group. If you answer them you will be asked to leave the group and no credit will be given for that group.
6. You will need to bring a pen and paper (or folder) each week you attend class. Also, include the packet of information you were given at intake. You will need to turn in any homework assigned by the facilitator.
7. It is your responsibility to keep track of your attendance and payment, The facilitators will not go over this every week. You will also need to keep all of your receipts.
8. Children are not allowed in group.
9. If you have any questions, it is your responsibility to be the one to call. We cannot talk to your partner to make any arrangements.
10. You can only make up class within the same week. if you would like to sit in on another group you will need to call and make arrangements. In order to make up a class you will need permission from Janet.
11. No food of any kind will he allowed into group. Beverages are allowed.
12. Sunglasses are not permitted in group unless they are prescription.
13. All hats with “bills” must be turned upward and not covering the eyes.
14. Police Reports must be provided by the third week of group. ‘They may be obtained from the police department or your attorney, however, not your probation officer.

Intro to Domestic Violence Intervention Program

Domestic Violence Intervention Program

1. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is committed to the confrontation and elimination of intimate violence.
2. We believe partner battery and abuse is a choice made by batterers and ONLY they are responsible for these actions.
3. The DVIP uses educational groups as the primary tool for increasing awareness of and accountability for abuse on the part of the batterer.
1. A tool to increase a batterer’s chances of gaining custody of his children
2. A form of marital or relationship counseling.
3. A tool to get someone to take you back.
4. A means of avoiding consequences for behavior such as jail, probation or other sanctions.
5. A resource for you to find a way to “fix” your partner or your relationship.
1. You will participate in group. This involves your talking about your own behavior, confronting other group members, and giving and receiving appropriate feedback.
2. You will complete assignments. If you do not have your homework for the week, you will not stay in group and will receive an absence.
3. You will hav specific goals and a written action plan completed by your fifth group. You will update the group on your progress weekly.
4. You will not use group time to whine, discuss, debate or vent about any issue not currently being addressed in group. You are free to start a discussion group of your own to meet at your convenience and discuss whatever you like. This group is not a civics class, a support group, a legal clinic or law class. Our goal is specific.
5. You will not violate the privacy of any group member by discussing them in any way outside of group.
6. You will not violate the privacy of any person outside of group by discussing them in group.
7. You will need to bring a notebook, paper and pen to group.
8. You will not be allowed in group if you are more than five minutes late.
9. You must have a written copy of the police report of you offense by the second group.
10. You must contact Janet Boudreau (810) 238-7621 ext. 309 if you have any problems with the record of your group attendance or payments fees, or any other group issues.
11. You will not be allowed into any group other than your regularly scheduled group without special permission from Janet Boudreau.

In general, we expect that you will be working hard in group. You, as a group member are responsible for what you get out of this experience. At no time should you be sitting back and waiting for something to happen. You are expected to work individually and encourage each other toward positive change. The facilitators cannot change you and your partner cannot change YOU. We absolutel3i believe in your ability to change and know you can if you choose to. This also means that we accept no excuses; if you don’t work at change, only you are to blame. You are expected to work daily at increasing your level of ownership, learning and practicing new skills and applying group concepts to your own life. if you have a problem with group or need information you don’t feel you are getting, you are responsible for bringing it to our attention in an appropriate manner.

REMEMBER- You are lucky to be in group! Rarely are persons guilty or criminal activity allowed the choice of learning to change their behavior. Our perspective is that being in group is a privilege. We do not have to keep you in group if you are not working.