We live in a wonderful county. I loved visiting Ballston Spa last week for First Friday; the weather couldn’t have been better. I’ve been rowing in the early morning out on the lake by Fish Creek with the mist hovering just above the water as the sun rises. On the way home from work today I’ll be stopping at Allerdice to pick up 5 bags of Miracle Gro Garden Soil (with this week’s special pricing it’s like the 5th bag is free), then dropping by Hannaford to have a mango fest (mangoes are 69 cents this week). If you’re a local too, I bet you cross many of these same paths in your week. This doesn’t sound like a place where a convicted sex offender kidnaps and tortures his former girlfriend both physically and psychologically for more than 24 hours. But Caitlin Morris’ report of a case in court this week details just such a harrowing tale. Reading the account my thoughts and emotions change continually: horror… shock… disbelief that such a drama could be unfolding in the very places I’ll be parking my car later today… and then recognition.
Recognition? Yes at each turn of this horrendous tale of terror and trauma, I heard echoes of statements said in our office many times each week. In our office? Yes, there were two words that weren’t used in this story- domestic violence. This story starts out as a love story with a couple who met while she was buying sunglasses and quickly became a romance with dinners, movies and runs together, then ended only weeks later as the girlfriend notices red flags of relationship abuse and ends the relationship. That’s what to do when something doesn’t feel right isn’t it? Move on and put that experience in the past. People ask me so often why domestic violence victims don’t just leave; sometimes they do and the abuser has other plans.
The tactics described in Saratogian reporter Caitlin Morris' headline story are all too familiar:
First while they were dating:
Angry outbursts “he flew into a fit of rage”
Physical abuse “slammed her onto the bed”
Imprisonment “wouldn’t let her leave the bedroom”
After she ended the relationship:
Harassment -“became obsessed with her…increasing stream of telephone and text messages”
Threats and intimidation -“communications became threatening”
Threats against family members- “started harassing her mother as well”
Stalking- “showed up at her temporary residence…she hadn’t shared the address with him”
Eliciting protective sympathy- “talking about suicide and severe depression”
Using threats of self-harm to manipulate/control the victim- “telling her he was going to drive off the bridge at 120 mph"
Pathological jealousy- “suspicion about her being with another man”
Unpredictable emotional lability that leaves the victim perpetually ‘walking on eggshells’- “immediately he turned into another person”
Threats to harm or kill the victim-“(this turquoise pond) will be where they find (your) floating body
Threatens to harm family or loved ones if the victim seeks help- "if she called the police…he would kill her 5 year old niece.”
Apologies…followed by more abuse- “he fell to the floor crying…expressing disbelief over his actions…(as he sat in a the chair with a kitchen knife) “it was clear the monster wasn’t going anywhere”
It’s unusual that a domestic violence incident ends up as the front page story describing 24 hours of torture. It’s not unusual that a victim tries to end the relationship and the abuse follows her (or him). While this incident has the drama, the plot twists, and the terror one might expect in a movie about relationship abuse on the big screen, the behaviors the abuser uses to exert power and control are really common… the advocates at DVRC hear stories like this every day. I’m certain this victim never expected anything like this could happen to her. She ended the relationship and thought she was safe. In an instant that changed. We don’t expect crimes like this (Kidnapping Assault. Strangulation) in Saratoga County. But they happen; domestic violence is the second most frequent violence crime in our county. Just weeks ago we had two deaths related to domestic incidents. First we have to recognize what these abusive behaviors are; they’re a pattern of power and control that’s called domestic violence. And they can escalate unpredictably.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these indicators of relationship abuse, don’t wait to seek help. Call now… to talk about what is happening… to find out your options… to develop a safety plan. We can help.
Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services
of Saratoga County
All services are free and confidential
24-hour hotline 518-584-8188