Most of us think of the video of NFL player Ray Rice knocking out his fiancé and dragging her limp body out of the elevator when we think of physical abuse. And most people, including abusers, think abuse is not really abuse unless someone is hit, punched, slapped, shot, knifed, or struck with a weapon. Even abusers will say to their victim, “Hey, at least I didn’t hit you,” to justify their ongoing physical abuse.
But physical abuse is much more than hitting, punching, slapping, shooting, knifing, or striking someone with a weapon. These are the obvious forms of physical abuse – used by the garden variety abuser. The intelligent abuser – the one with the MBA, MD, DDS, PhD, or JD behind his name – will plan and scheme and plot ways to inflict abuse that leave no sign of his abuse (and leave others questioning the sanity of his wife should she ever expose the abuse of her charming, charismatic, sociopathic husband).
In physical abuse, the ultimate goal is to intimidate his spouse so that his power and control are maintained. The clear message abusers state is, “I am in control. Not you.” Unsurprisingly, ninety percent of abusers are men. His techniques can include using himself or any physical object to inflict pain or harm, intentionally putting her in fear of imminent harm, or leaving her in harm’s way for others or mother nature to complete the dirty work. The key to effective physical abuse is taking advantage of the other person’s position of vulnerability or weakness. The intelligent abuser is a good at it. The wealthy, intelligent abuser is a master.
The following are just some of the most common and creative ways the smart domestic abuser physically abuses his wife without causing bruises or wounds. These examples have been compiled from actual women in the North Shore of Chicago, the home to many affluent, intelligent abusers:
- Dropping Her Out of the Car. This is probably the most common way an abuser physically abuses his wife while leaving no record of abuse. He explodes in anger in the car while he’s driving, and he forces her out of the car (often times while it is still moving) miles from home – usually in an unsafe urban neighborhood or a deserted country road. He usually makes sure that she has no money or cell phone so that she cannot call for help, take a taxi home, or get to safety for hours. The hope is that by putting her in harm’s way, other forces (such as a gang or cold weather) will cause the ultimate harm (rape, murder, freezing to death, etc.,), but, because he didn’t inflict the harm himself, he can view himself as innocent of any wrongdoing.
- Dumping Her Out of the Boat. In a variation on a theme, the abuser will dump her out of a boat, with nearly the assurance that she will drown (if she is far enough from shore). He will feign the poor, distraught husband, and no one else will be able to testify what actually happened. If he dumps her in a smaller body of water and she can swim to shore, she will at least be intimidated enough not to challenge him again.
- Refusing to Take Her to the Emergency Room for Medical Emergencies. This is another favorite technique for the intelligent abuser. While his wife is suffering from a high fever, wracked with pain, a debilitating injury, or some other potentially life-threatening emergency, the abuser downplays the emergency and goes along with his day, putting his appointments and to-do list above her life or safety. If he does finally take her to the Emergency Room, he leaves her to go back to his important work. Again, because he did not personally cause the emergency (he simply did not take any steps to help her), he can view himself as innocent of any wrongdoing and excuse his behavior as innocently not realizing the extent of the emergency if the harm to her is dire.
- Refusing to Take Her to the Emergency Room for the Birth of Children. Again, in a variation on a theme, the abuser will look at his wife’s labor as a huge inconvenience to his otherwise busy scheduled day, and will refuse to take her or delay taking her. This will inevitably result in a birth at home or on the way (which puts both mother and child at a huge increased risk of harm), or at the very least, put the mother in extreme pain and emotional distress as he takes his time getting her to the hospital.
- Denying Her of Basic Needs. When a woman is particularly vulnerable, such as when she is sick, in chemo, elderly, or recovering from surgery or an accident, an abuser will often deny her the basic needs of food, water, and medicine. The abuser will refuse to help her move about, use the restroom, or take a bath. Many abusers deny their victims sleep by constantly demanding that she serve him and leaving her sleep deprived, unable to concentrate, and confused.
- Locking Her Outside or Inside. Abusers will often lock their victims out of the house – forcing her to sleep in a car, outside, or find shelter elsewhere (if she has car keys and money). Locking her outside in a storm or when it is cold adds to the physical abuse. On the other hand, abusers will also often lock their victims inside the house so they cannot escape. The new generation of smart technology allowing abusers to lock homes, turn on appliances and lights, and let her know that he is watching her from remote locations adds to the emotional distress.
- Restraining Her from Leaving. Abusers will often keep their victims from leaving the premises by blocking her path, standing in front of the car or the car door, and denying her access to escape a dangerous situation. The clear message is that he is in control and she can do nothing about it.
- Causing “Accidents.” Abusers have a unique ability to harm their victim and then pretend that it was an accident, when in reality it was either done intentionally or with such gross carelessness that harm was inevitable. For example, he may “accidentally” turn on the garbage disposal while her hand is trying to fish something out of the disposal, he may “accidentally” drive a boat around a corner so fast that she flies off the innertube into a dock, or he may “accidentally” nudge her on a steep ravine causing her to fall. In each case, the abuser shows a reckless or intentional disregard for the safety of others, but plays it off as an unintentional “freak” accident.
- Throwing Objects. An effective way for an abuser to intimidate a wife is to throw objects, such as lamps, dishes, glass, or anything that has weight and mass at her or around the room. The result is usually a terrified, shaking, or injured wife.
- Hitting Objects. Another effective way for an abuser to intimidate a wife is to hit and destroy objects – such as a door, a wall, or anything that she values – with a fist, a bat, a crowbar, or anything that can demolish. The clear message here is that she is next.
- Leaving Her in Harm’s Way. When the wealthy abuser vacations with his wife, there are plenty of opportunities for harm simply by the abuser leaving his wife in a dangerous situation. For example, the abuser will be the first one into the boat when he sees a shark on a snorkeling or scuba-diving trip, while leaving his wife and kids in the water. The abuser will be the fastest runner if during their Alaskan vacation they find a grizzly bear. The abuser will be sure to get to safety first without helping her if a stampede or hungry lion is interrupting their African safari.
- Sleeping with a Weapon. Many abusers will threaten to kill or harm their victim if she leaves, show her the weapon that he plans to use, and sleep with it under his pillow. This ensures she will be a hostage in her own home as surely locking a prison door.
- Medical Treatments. Abusers with backgrounds in medicine are in unique positions of power, especially when he is the family doctor to his own family. Prescribing drugs that hurt his wife, while she is trusting that he is treating her, is just one way to harm her. In one situation, a vindictive dentist removed all his spouse’s teeth when she came in for a treatment. (He also lost his license).
- Hair pulling, shaking, shoving, spitting, etc. Smart abusers inflict pain and instill fear without showing a bruise by hair pulling, shaking, shoving, or spitting on his spouse. If done carefully, when or if the police come, there will be no visible signs of abuse, the abuser will deny it, and he will, once again, suffer no consequences for his heinous behavior. Although these actions may constitute assault and battery, the criminal standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt” – which is difficult to meet without hard evidence or a video tape.
- Forcing Her to Watch Abuse of Others. In a particularly cruel tactic, the abuser may force his spouse to watch his physical or emotional abuse of others, such as her children, the family pet, or another unfortunate animal that has crossed the path of the abuser.
As with other forms of abuse, the ways an abuser can physically abuse his spouse is virtually endless, and limited only by his imagination or creativity. If you (or someone you love) is experiencing any of these tactics, this is abuse, and you are in danger. Orders of Protection can be obtained the same day by going to your local county courthouse. Contact your local domestic abuse organization, or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233 for more information on getting to safety.
Know that there are people who can help you get out of the abuse, heal, and be the beautiful woman that God designed you to be. There is hope and healing and freedom after abuse.