The abuser is going to be filled with rage. The abuser is going to be a primeval beast of flaming wrath. All because the abused is going to pick up and leave.
The departure would be new. The anger and control already exist.
An abuser is someone that exerts power and control in a domestic relationship and feels threatened if that power is not complete, according to Meg Schnabel, executive director of Bloomington-based Cornerstone Minnesota, who has been honored by the White House for her innovative services to victims of domestic abuse.
The abuse may be physical or financial (“I control the money in this family”) or emotional, she said.
Power and dominance
The abuser is all about power and dominance. Schnabel says that, intriguingly, the root of all this muscularity is fear—“fear of the relationship ending.”
Often the abuser is male, but not always. Also, there can be abuse in a gay relationship, where abusers have an additional tool of harm: they can threaten to “out” abused persons who may have hidden their sexual preference from family and friends.
For a definition of domestic abuse, Eden Prairie Police Sgt. Lonnie Soppeland points to Minnesota statutes. In Statute 518B.01, the Domestic Abuse Act, domestic abuse means committing against a family or household member: physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; terroristic threats, criminal sexual conduct, sexual extortion, or interference with an emergency call.
Statute 609.2242 Domestic Assault covers the same points about injury and induced fear.
Schnabel says it is a myth to assume that both abusers and those abused have low self-esteem. Each has an average amount of self-esteem, although that self-esteem may deteriorate as the dysfunctional relationship develops, she said.
To outsiders, the most confounding fact about abusive relationships is that the abused person often does not simply pick up and leave.
“Most of us don’t want to be mistreated,” Schnabel said.
The abuser has weapons. The abuser may threaten to harm the children or take the children away. If the abused has no money, there is the immobilizing fear of “financial failure” that will follow a breakup of the relationship.
Schnabel notes that often an abusive relationship may exist in an environment of poverty. She observes, however, that the abused is a person who in a very broad sense has a “lack of resources”. No money. No family or friends to turn to. No awareness of support groups.
Schnabel cautions us to remember that the relationship began in love. The abuse flourished later. The abused loves the abuser. The abused tries to go through fixes and supposed improvements that will placate the abuser.
The abused may depart only when there is a realization that the fixes are not working. Eventually, the abused may end up thinking: “I am not responsible for this hurtful relationship.”
Law enforcement’s role
Soppeland acknowledges that in the case of domestic abuse, police are often in a reactive situation, rather than proactive. They usually learn of an abusive relationship after the fact.
Eden Prairie Police does have its own DART program—Domestic Abuse Response Team. Patrol officers staff the team as a “secondary assignment,” Soppeland said. Soppeland is part of the department’s Adult Investigations unit and also is the supervisor of DART.
DART does ongoing follow-up on domestic abuse events and may also refer the abused to such advocacy organizations as Cornerstone Minnesota, Soppeland said.
Joyce Lorenz, Eden Prairie communications manager, directs us to the department’s annual reports of officially recorded crimes in Eden Prairie. Even though Eden Prairie is a moderate-sized suburb, these are the recorded instances of domestic assault:
Where to go for help
Cornerstone Minnesota can be found on the internet at https://cornerstonemn.org and has a big red “LEAVE SITE” button at the top of each page of its website. If the abuser approaches an abused person reading the web page, the abused can click the red button and not be found out.
Cornerstone is a full-service organization. It offers shelter for the abused, for the abused’s children, even the family pet. It serves abused females and abused males.
Cornerstone’s website section, Immediate Help-Safe Shelter, states reassuringly, “You will receive all basic necessities, including meals, toiletries, clothing, school supplies and transportation.” Financial aid is available, as is training in running a household. It offers assistance in obtaining a restraining order or an order of protection. Psychological therapy is available.
Sojourner Project, another Twin Cities advocacy group, provides many of the same services.
What can a concerned bystander do? Schnabel says that if you witness or suspect abuse, first and foremost make yourself available to listen to the abused.
Do not make responses that are judgmental. Do not tell the abused what to do. Let the abused know that they do not deserve abuse and that they are not at fault. Let the abused know that the police and support groups and other resources are available—sources including yourself.
Soppeland says if you witness an act of abuse, do not put yourself in harm’s way but be a “good witness.” Do not leave the scene before police arrive. Be able describe to police the clothing of the abuser and abused, any vehicles that are theirs, any license plate numbers.
Because Eden Prairie police have their own dispatch service, they can arrive on the scene quickly, Soppeland said. Police would rather be called with nothing resulting than not be called.
Domestic abuse is not simply an “aberration.” It is a backward surge to our primitive fearful brutish selves. Soppeland observes that children are harmed simply by being present when abuse occurs.
Domestic abuse exists everywhere—even in the comfortable suburbs. Advocacy groups provide help the abused may never have imagined. Eden Prairie police have a team to deal with domestic abuse.
To friends and relatives of the abused: Do be a concerned bystander. Do be someone who listens and—if necessary—educates the abused to resources available.
To the abused: Look at the table in this article. You do not deserve to be abused. Hands of help and hope are reaching out to you.