I have worked with the issue of domestic violence for 25 years and thought I was immune from the heart-wrenching ache when seeing what one human being can do to another. I learned I’m not. Like many, I was drawn to yet sickened by the alleged tape recordings of Mel Gibson’s raging statements to his former partner and mother of his child. Unfortunately, as distressing as the calls were, I found that nothing he allegedly said or did is unusual for a batterer.
I have worked with the issue of domestic violence for 25 years and thought I was immune from the heart-wrenching ache when seeing what one human being can do to another. I learned I’m not. Like many, I was drawn to yet sickened by the alleged tape recordings of Mel Gibson’s raging statements to his former partner and mother of his child. Unfortunately, as distressing as the calls were, I found that nothing he allegedly said or did is unusual for a batterer. Frighteningly, the alleged Gibson rants are typical batterer behavior and reflect a high potential for lethality. The calls indicate stalking – calling repeatedly, in this case, allegedly 30 times in one day, including in the middle of the night; attempts at sleep deprivation through phone calls; physical violence and threats of physical violence; access to weapons; degradation; and, finally, not-so-subtle threats of death and/or suicide. If we add drug or alcohol use to the mix, we have the perfect set-up for the final tragedy.
Whether the tapes are “doctored” or not, this case brings the issue of domestic violence into full view and begs examination. Many have also questioned why these tapes have come to the public in the first place; they are, afterall, private conversations. However, as many a victim can attest, the reasons are simple, to have these tapes in the public serves to keep Oksana safe; otherwise, with all of his resources, who would believe that Mel Gibson was capable of such violence?
Domestic violence occurs every day across our county, state and nation. It even happens repeatedly and in epidemic proportions in teen dating relationships. Why do victims stay in such relationships? The answers are found in abusive behaviors frequently used by battering partners. Typically, there’s a dependence on the batterer for living essentials and threats to take away those essential needs, such as housing, financial assistance and the big one:” I will get our child because no one will believe you.” Another typical behavior is repeatedly telling the victim he/she is worthless and cannot support his or herself, which tears at self worth and esteem. Also typical are attempts to cause severe emotional trauma with statements such as “You are a slut, you dress like a slut, you act like a slut,” and obsessively using vulgar terms and attacking the victim’s personhood and gender. These attacks serve to humiliate and degrade. The intended effect of these behaviors is to immobilize the partner, and it often works.
These activities behind close doors not only affect the victim and their children, they hurt our entire community. We spend countless dollars on specialized courts and prosecutors, law enforcement, domestic abuse services, jails, prisons, health care institutions, and even our educational system with children who come to school carrying what they saw. Let’s take this opportunity to rid our community of this social malady. If you feel compelled to take action, call Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence at 408-501-7550. If you identify with the descriptions of these behaviors call 408-279-2962 (24-hour hotline). Whether you are a victim, a perpetrator or an interested member of our community, a place exists for you in this struggle to end domestic violence. Just call.