Just the other day, I received an email from a nameless woman. She only provided me with her first and last initials. She asked if I could give her information about how to repair her marriage.
Ordinarily, I would just direct someone to my blogs and vlogs and let them know that if they wanted more information they should be in contact. However, something about the approach this woman took to contact me unsettled me and inspired me dig a bit more. Her pressing need for anonymity struck an alarm bell in my mind especially coming so soon after the murder of Michal Sela by her husband. I thought I had better not take things for granted and that her safety was the priority.
I asked her directly whether she needed help with feeling safe in her marriage, or whether she simply wants to see an improvement in their connection.
After reading articles and watching videos about Michal Sela’s murder I was shaken to my core. How could it be that a young mother, a social worker could be murdered by her husband, completely out of the blue? Of course, I thought to myself, Mr. Malul conveniently had no prior record. Verbal and emotional abuse are not punishable crimes. In fact, they barely get noticed. His family said the photos on Facebook all depict a happily married couple.
In my experience of working with couples, most people show happy smiling faces to the world. It is rare that other people really get an inside view into the reality of what’s going on.
In fact, people who have highly entrenched marital difficulties tend to put on an even happier front in order to hide the shame and pain.
Abusers will almost always apologize to their partner after they do something horrible. Put on a good front for a while and promise to do better. This is known as the cycle of violence. It starts out a little bad, and as the victim dismisses or ignores the abuse while it is at a low and almost tolerable level, by the time the violence becomes extreme the victim feels increasing levels of shame and blame. The victims often convince themselves that they must be doing something wrong to bring this behavior upon themselves.
The shame causes them to do things to hide their physical and emotional scars. They create excuses to hide them.
I remember well a woman who used to babysit for us. She was a kind and gentle woman. Always a bit shy and withdrawn. She sported scratches up and down her arms which I only discovered while she helped me bathe my children. I asked her about it the first time I noticed them. She explained it away without batting an eyelash that she had a terrible itchy rash and the marks were from scratching. It was only two years later that I discovered the truth of those scars. I received a phone call from her lawyer asking if I ever noticed signs of abuse.
Much to my chagrin, I was terribly ashamed that I didn’t try to probe a bit deeper.
Sadly, violence is so pervasive in our society it lies under so many of our noses. It is also so painful we conveniently accept stories victims of violence tell us. It’s only when it’s too late that we kick ourselves for not paying more attention.
The story I began with has a no known ending for now. I never received a response to my question about whether she felt unsafe, or whether she just wanted to see more improvements in her connection with her husband. It seems I may have struck a chord. Of course, I only received a glimpse into her life.
This reason I felt compelled to share this has nothing to do with her, but just in hopes of raising awareness about how insidious and pervasive marital violence is. I would like to encourage anyone who feels unsafe to seek help. There are many organizations in Israel available for this purpose. Among them include Tahel, Bat Ami, Emunah, WIZO, not to mention every misrad harevacha in every neighbourhood.
Remember protecting yourself is the best thing you can do for your family. Please get help if you feel unsafe.