Knowing I cannot change what happened to me, I am passionate to learn and be involved in promoting awareness, changing how IPV is approached and effecting best outcomes for survivors. This prompted me to attend a recent conference on reducing intimate partner homicide through lethality assessments, high risk teams and offender profiling.
Certainly not a typically recommended post trauma activity for a survivor, I felt I had the support I needed, ample therapy under my belt, and the distance from my personal trauma to remain detached and learn.
I was particularly interested in the dynamics of the abuser, from both an early recognition and prevention standpoint and to raise the awareness of those transitioning out of violent relationships of factors that increase the likelihood of lethal violence.
The last day of the conference focused on personality traits of men who are violent against women, including those specific to men who kill their partners. All my emotional safety strategies served me well until a presenter was drilling down to different offender personality attributes identified in those who kill. He asked the simple question “Why do you think men kill the children before they kill their partner?”
Just as these men use their children to control their partner to do what he wants, just as she tries to protect them from him, just as he uses them to keep her from leaving, he uses the children in a final deadly game. It is to further torture her.
The answer has been emblazoned in my mind and heart for five years now. But as I said the answer aloud, an old reflex sprang forward so effortlessly in itself it created a biliousness that arose from the pit of my stomach and exited with the waterfall of my tears. For a split second I was immensely thankful to my husband, my murderous husband, for having spared me the torture of killing our children before I arrived home that day.
This. The twistedness of being thankful to the man who hurts you for not hurting you as much as he is capable of, being thankful to him for only shooting you, instead of your children first, then you. This.
Remembering I am thankful only to God for sparing my children and me, I was able to swallow hard, dry my tears, reorient and recover. In a moment of grace I was reminded of the work He has given me to do; to further understanding of the insidious conditioning like misplaced gratitude that is at the core of intimate partner violence.