“Ronald, I’m leaving you,” Gloria began as she nudged past him. Ronald stopped her in his tracks as he firmly grabbed her arms; he uncontrollably began slapping then choking Gloria. Her intense screams woke their 3year-old son, drawing his fear to their room, “Mama? Maah-maaaahh?”

***

When Ronald met Gloria, he thought she was the most wonderful, kind, thoughtful woman he had ever met. He knew, almost instantly, this was a woman he liked to be around; she was someone with whom he wanted to spend his life.

Sometime following those exciting, new months, while Ronald in no way wanted to part with Gloria, he began to become more annoyed with her, feeling disrespected by little things she would do and say. As the months and years grew on, the feeling of disrespect did, too.

You see, Ronald had a secret. He was a jealous man with a fiery temper.

The signs are there; they’re always there. Gloria would have told anyone, right up until the day she was choked, she was simply well taken care of. If she were given an opportunity to reflect, however, she might have seen the situation, she might have seen Ronald differently, realizing he felt disrespected, not because of anything she was doing wrong, but because he didn’t always feel he had power and/or control over certain situations.

On average, three women die every day in the U.S. due to domestic violence. Children who are exposed to physical and/or emotional abuse usually are victims of physical and/or emotional abuse themselves. Furthermore, these children often grow-up, displaying these abusive traits in their own relationships.

Domestic violence isn’t always about violence; it’s about power and control, which can easily escalate to violence, just as it did in Gloria's and Ronald’s case. The warning signs are always there. What are the signs?

Privilege: being treated as the servant or maid, acting as the “King of the castle,” or “This is my house,” making all major decisions.

Emotional: breaking down self-esteem, shaming, name-calling, mind games, humiliation, sense of fault.

Isolation: control over personal relationships, controlling one’s ability to make choices, jealousy.

Minimizing, denying, blaming: denying abuse, disregarding concerns, blaming victim.

Children: threatening to take child(ren) away, guilt regarding child(ren), visitation as a form of harassment, child(ren) as messenger(s).

Economic: having to ask for money, financial control, giving an allowance, preventing knowledge/access to household income/expenses, not allowing employment.

Coercion and threats: making/carrying out threats, threatening to leave or telling victim to get out, suicidal threats, forcing illegal behaviors, forcing charges to be dropped, threatening to report illegal use of government services.

Intimidation: using gestures, looks or actions to induce fear, destruction of property, throwing objects, displaying weapons and abusive behavior toward pets.

For a man or woman who grew up in an environment where power and control were present, he or she may not recognize that they themselves are displaying or have fallen victim to these traits.

A healthy, team-oriented relationship, one built upon mutual respect, will look like this:

Trust: accepting each other’s word, giving the benefit of the doubt.

Accountability: admits mistakes (or when wrong), accepts responsibility for behaviors, attitudes and values.

Safety: refusing to intimidate or manipulate, respecting physical space, expressing self non-violently.

Honesty: communicates openly and honestly, being able to share feelings.

Support: supports each other’s choices, being understanding, offering encouragement, listening non-judgmentally, valuing opinions; Cooperation: asking not expecting, accepting change, making decisions together, willing to compromise and win-win resolutions to conflict.

Ronald admitted he always hid the full extent of his temper from Gloria; he didn’t want to lose her, and he felt he had control of himself. That was until Gloria began giving her opinion, “going against him, disrespecting him,” or so he felt. He lost control; he said he saw black that night. It was as if he were watching a scene, one he couldn’t stop, one where his wife was being slapped and choked. He only came to when he heard the voice of his young son, “Mama? Maah-maaaahhh?”

Ronald stared into Gloria’s glossed-over eyes. Sse was dead.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence — there is help. Call the Office of Women’s Health Hotline (OWH): 1-800-994-9662 or the Center on Domestic Violence: 303-315-2489. In the Arkansas Valley area: www.arkansasvalleyresourcecenter.org: 719-384-7764.

Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of Carecorner, Ltd., Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care. Gina attended Regis University and Colorado State University-Pueblo. She can be reached at ginaparadiso@gmail.com.