Sometimes it takes a tragic or unfortunate situation to shed light on very important topics such as Robin Williams’s untimely death which brought attention to depression and suicide. The recent video that showed NFL star Ray Rice knock out his girlfriend, as horrific as it was, will no doubt bring much needed attention to the topic of domestic violence. Something positive will come out of something negative.
First and foremost, there is never, ever any reason to physically or mentally abuse women and all men must get this message early on in childhood. A man’s job is to protect women, for most men this is a natural response, almost inbred, but for many, they have grown up in a household or culture where spousal abuse is common. They don’t grow up with this message of female respect and the perpetuation of physical violence is passed down generationally.
The biggest drawback of discussing domestic violence is the fact that the average (and intelligent) person does not fully understand the cycle. My wife and I have been active supporters of Safe Harbor Shelter (April served on the board and we have both served as spokespersons and fund raisers) and until this I have to say that I did not fully appreciate the depth of the complex cycle of captivity. Listening to the personal stories of violence victims makes it all crystal clear.
I describe this as captivity because the aggressor wants to “own” the victim and uses physical violence, mental punishment, jealousy, sexual and financial control and numerous other manipulating factors to maintain control of their spouse. Substance abuse is also a frequent common denominator. Although we most often think of females as being the victims, domestic violence can flow in either direction.
The biggest misunderstanding concerns the simple statement “she deserves it, because she did not leave after the first time it happened”. We are also seeing this in the Ray Rice incident where people are saying “she married him after that, I can’t believe it”. What the average person may not realize is that many of these women are trapped. They have been manipulated, controlled, beaten and robbed of all self-esteem so that they are 100% reliant on their spouse for existence. “You are worthless, you are ugly, you are a loser, you cannot survive without me”, these are the frequent words of an abuser. They have been made to feel worthless, they are given money or sex in a manner to further exhibit control and are intentionally made to feel that they cannot survive without their aggressor. They are afraid of harm to themselves or their children or family if they don’t comply with their “captor”. Their spouse may even defend the abuser because it keeps the abuser happy and may prevent another beating. Unfortunately, many domestic abuse victims ultimately are murdered by their aggressor in the final act of ultimate control. It is not uncommon to see a local newspaper article where a domestic violence victim took out a restraining order on their abuser and were murdered shortly after that. Our courts and law enforcement needs to be more involved when someone identifies a spouse as a threat.
Friends and family also need to be acutely aware of the signs of domestic violence because the victims will frequently deny it out of fear. Having treated facial trauma in local emergency departments over the last 30 years, I have seen many circumstances of domestic violence. It is remarkable that after suturing of a facial laceration from being punched by her husband the victim leaves with the aggressor as he is her only ride home. She has nowhere else to go, to one to turn to, she has no job, no money, no protection, no self-esteem and fears for her children’s safety. She has to go back home.
I promise you that anyone reading this blog knows someone that is or has been a domestic violence victim. You may not realize it, but if you think it is possible, you need to offer them help. Safe Harbor provides emergency services for domestic violence victims and can be reached at
Don’t wait, help them now, it may save their life.
Joe Niamtu, III DMD
Cosmetic Facial Surgery