Close to Home

Domestic violence is a crime that police say is on the rise — right here in Greenwich

(page 2 of 3)

Trouble Signs

Barbara, who grew up in another state, was the product of a loving, respectful home, which made her husband’s behavior all the more foreign to her. Hers was an upbringing on the lower rungs of middle-class, she says, in which everyone’s needs were met but without many extras. Her husband, for his part, came from a well-to-do background, complete with a country-club membership and an Ivy League pedigree. But his home life had been volatile.

They were in their mid-twenties when they met. His polished style and charming, if somewhat arrogant, personality attracted Barbara. His outbursts began when they were living together in the Midwest. And though she was taken aback by his behavior, Barbara thought it a personality flaw that she could handle. They married, had kids and fell into a life punctuated by his fierce upbraidings along with a steady dropping away from friendships. “Our marriage got to the point where I knew that on Friday nights he would come home and things would be bad, that he needed quiet, that we never went out on Friday nights,” she says. “There were things when I look back now that I should have run away from. But I didn’t. I thought I could have fixed them. I wanted to be with him. I wanted it to work.”

Barbara now knows that her husband innately understood that she would end the marriage if he ever physically assaulted her, and he adjusted his behavior accordingly. “He knew my limitations,” she says. “If you’re an abuser, you know how far you can push somebody.” Suzanne concurs, “Domestic violence is about power and control. The abuser is essentially saying, ‘I will use whatever tactic or tool I need to control you.’ For one person it may just be a put-down or telling you that you look bad today. For another person it may be a shove. For another it may not be letting you have access to a joint banking account.” Many victims say the emotional attacks cut deeper than the physical. “Emotional abuse eats away at your self-esteem, your sense of self-worth, your sense of identity, and your ability to parent,” says Suzanne. “Your concentration changes. Your relationships with your friends change. It takes quite a toll.”

Legal Strides

Many victims have been sexually assaulted by their husbands, but say nothing because they accept that he has a right to sex and that it is her duty to comply. For some women, being hit is a signal to take action and end the relationship. Bruises and broken bones often lead to police involvement or other outsiders suddenly becoming aware of the problem. Connecticut lawmakers have passed a number of laws in recent years to better protect victims. In 2007, police departments were given authority to set conditions of bond, including temporary restraining orders, for those arrested in domestic-abuse cases when a bail commissioner is unavailable, such as on weekends and during holidays. Previously, nothing prevented an abuser from returning home after his release from jail. (In Greenwich, as in most cities and towns around the state, bonds typically range from $1,000 for a breach of peace or disorderly conduct charge to $100,000 for a first-degree physical assault.)

Meanwhile, the specific act of strangulation, at three levels of severity, became a crime as well, with first- and second-degree cases being felonies. Officials call this an important development since strangling is a disturbingly common form of domestic violence. “The law gives it more focus,” says Nancy Dolinsky, domestic-violence prosecutor for Greenwich, Stamford and Darien in Superior Court. “It protects our victims more. And in a certain sense it holds the defendants more accountable.”

Of course, the law can only do so much. Often, abusers are so outraged and bent on harming the victim that they don’t care what happens. Lieutenant Cochran tells of suspects, who after they have been arrested, will ask if they could call their attorney and instead call the victim — right from the police station, despite a protective order being in place — to threaten her. “So the victim calls us and asks, ‘Do you still have him in custody?’ ” Lieutenant Cochran says. “And we’ll tell her that we do, and she says, ‘Well, he just called me!’ ”
Typically, experts say domestic abuse follows a cycle of behavior: tension, an abusive act, and what is called the honeymoon phase. For the victim, the cycle starts with a period of anticipation of abuse or “walking on eggshells,” which gradually builds over time until the inevitable blowup. As Barbara saw time and again, the abuser will then often express deep regret and go on his best behavior, until it starts all over again. On average, according to Suzanne, a victim will attempt to leave an abusive relationship seven times before successfully getting out of it.

Too many people ask why victims fail to leave abusive relationships when the real focus should be on the abuser’s unjustifiable behavior, says Louisa Daley, clinical supervisor with the YWCA. Many men blame stress at work, or alcohol, or the victim herself for provoking him, which those familiar with domestic abuse dismiss out of hand. “Abusers know what they’re doing,” Louisa says. “But they need to do it to keep that power balance in the relationship in their favor. They absolutely know, even down to saying, ‘You’re crazy,’ which throws her off so that she’ll be more dependent and less strong.” Louisa recommends that survivors of domestic violence read a book called Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (Berkley Trade, 2003), by Lundy Bancroft, an authority on abusive men.


Greenwich Agenda

  • TREEHOUSES: Look Who's Living in the Trees!

     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Saturday, June 21 - Monday, September 1 Hidden in the leaves, snug in the trunk or burrowed under the roots, what types of animals actually...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT


    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...

Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Best of Greenwich
    Delamar Greenwich Harbor
  2. 10 Things Greenwich Teens Can Do This Summer
    One Greenwich teen shares some suggestions for summer fun!
  3. Villa Maria School: Annual Spring Gala
    Richards of Greenwich
  4. Save the Children Benefit
    Riverside Yacht Club
  5. American Red Cross: Red and White Ball 2014
    NetJets Hangar at Westchester County Airport