Earl Hipp’s niece was killed by her husband in a murder-suicide. This post is dedicated to both of the victims of tragedy.
This was previously published on Man-Making.
About a month ago, my niece was killed by her husband in a murder-suicide. Yes, my family and I are still in shock and working through it. This post is a gesture dedicated to this tragic couple. It’s offered with the hope we can all learn something about what went wrong. It’s also offered with the hope more people will learn about the issues and then teach young males about abusive and controlling relationships. The quote by Frederick Douglass, It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men, was never more true than with this issue.
The very short story is my niece was full of life, creative, attractive, and engaged in the world. Her husband was unemployed, overweight, friendless, isolated, and depressed. In truth, he was a lost man-boy who was leaking self-esteem at a breathtaking rate. Toward the end, the only thing he had going for him was the control he had over his vibrant but vulnerable wife.
We kind of got the feeling that things between them were out of sorts. On the times in the last few years we were able to get together, their behavior was odd. He was dressed inappropriately, was sarcastic and demeaning towards our niece. In front of us all, he would speak badly of her, her parents, and many of the rest of the family. She would occasionally bite back, but was pretty quickly shut down. It was increasingly uncomfortable to be with them, but they put on a happy face, and we couldn’t tell how tragically deep the problem was.
At our last meeting with them, he announced for health reasons, it was necessary for her to give up coaching her BMX racing team. This was way off because it had been her joy and passion for many years. We mentioned all the kids who would miss her involvement, but didn’t say anything about her decision. He also said that because of the stress she was under, it was necessary for him to step in and manage her finances. She seemed uncomfortable with the idea, but didn’t challenge him, and was apparently willing to let it all go. From that time on, it got harder to reach her by phone, and we realized he would often, and increasingly, answer her emails. I think the family rationalized all couples have challenging times, and didn’t act to intervene. We were prepared to hear about tough times, but we never thought the family would get THAT call from the police.
Since their passing, we’ve all learned so much of what we were experiencing with them were common symptoms of an abusive and controlling relationship. As is the case in deep and wet grief, everyone in their circle of family and friends is sharing a small mountain of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. Had we only known what we know now, they both might still be alive. So let me share with you just a little of what you, young males, and everyone else really should know:
- Relationship violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
- Abuse in relationship can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.
- These forms of violence can happen to anyone, at any age, of any race, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels, and couples who are married, living together, or those who are dating.
- Teens are seriously at risk for dating violence. Research shows that physical or sexual abuse is a part of 1 in 3 high school relationships (http://goo.gl/0JGWD).
- While there is no question some men are abused by their intimate partners, battering and other forms of relationship abuse is largely a male on female issue. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women. The National Crime Victimization Survey consistently finds that no matter who initiates the violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured than are men. This is why our young males need to learn about both destructive and healthy relationship dynamics early on.
- There is a predictable and addictive cycle of abuse in “power and control” relationships that revolves around anticipating violence; coping with actual acts of violence; or recovering from the violence. Once set in motion, the cycle can usually only be broken with awareness and professional help.
- This PDF describes a 2002 study of females killed with a firearm. Almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners.
- If a friend, date or intimate partner has a history of behaving in the following ways, it may indicate you are in, or headed for an abusive relationship:
Calls you names, insults you, or continually criticizes you.
Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive.
Tries to isolate you from family or friends.
Monitors where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with.
Does not want you to work.
Controls finances or refuses to share money.
Punishes you by withholding affection.
Expects you to ask permission.
Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets.
Humiliates you in any way.
I guess what’s really important for me to say is if you or someone you know is caught up in a relationship with these dynamics, PLEASE do something. At the minimum, check out your feelings with a caring “advocate” who will answer the phone at the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (7233). They are available 24/7, and will talk with any person affected by relationship violence, including abuser, victim, friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc., regardless of your age, sexual orientation, or even the language you speak (170 languages available).
The American Bar Association has a great website describing a broad swath of data on domestic violence statistics covering various ages, ethnic groups, and much more. None of it is pretty. I found their section on teens to be especially enlightening.
You can easily learn more about this issue by searching for “Power and Control Wheel” on the web, and you’ll come across lots of good information. One solid organization (of many) working in this field is DAIP, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. They have very good “Power and Control Wheel” and “Equality Wheel” diagrams. These are great learning/teaching tools for quickly describing both the behaviors in abusive relationships as well as what a healthy, power sharing/supportive relationship can look like. You may want to consider engaging an organization like DAIP to train a group of young people about these issues. However, printing out the wheels and having a conversation with a young guy or guys you know would be doing a lot.
I know I’m rambling on here. Because of my still raw feelings, I’m guilty of over-trying to keep others from woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. It’s my prayer that you, or someone you know, will never experience what my family has been through.
When confronted in some way with abuse, power, and controlling in relationship, please, please do something. And then let’s help the next few generations of men be the best possible relationship partners possible.