Paper Protection Part 2

PAPER PROTECTION: Power and control dynamic sets batterers apart

2013-03-03T20:57:00Z 2013-03-06T10:58:40Z PAPER PROTECTION: Power and control dynamic sets batterers apartMonte Martin monte.martin@nwi.com nwitimes.com
March 03, 2013 8:57 pm  • 

In a follow-up visit to determine if TJ Myricks wanted to keep an order of protection she had against her abusive boyfriend in 2008, the young Gary woman went into a judge's chambers and pondered the jurist's questions:

Was she still in fear?

Did she want to keep the order of protection?

With no advocate present, and her abuser standing beside her, she lied, replying no to both.

"I didn't want the reaction from him," Myricks, 34, recalled. "Even though he probably would not have done anything right then and there … once we leave there …"

Not long afterward, the boyfriend resumed the abuse and shortly after one confrontation came knocking on doors and windows of Myricks' home. She braced herself against a bathroom door, calling police on her cellphone.

Her abusive boyfriend had entered the residence by throwing a hammer through a window. His search ended at the bathroom, where he forced the door open enough to strike Myricks with the hammer, leaving her bleeding from a head wound.

If she hadn't relinquished the protective order, she acknowledges, she probably wouldn't have been in that situation. A responding officer told Myricks she was lucky, that a high percentage of women who rescind the order of protection wind up dead.

Regardless, in the aftermath, Myricks still kept company with her abuser, whom she had known for nine years, ultimately doing the unthinkable.

She married him, readily pleading insanity.

"Crazy," she conceded. "I told no one. To this day, my mother doesn't even know that I was married to him."

The human behavior dynamics in domestic violence can be unfathomable, as Myricks' 180-degree turn suggests, which is why police find themselves in a vulnerable position responding to them.

"One (combatant) might be very angry or both," said Cmdr. Dan Kijurna of the Merrillville Police Department. "There may be weapons involved. You never know what you are walking into in one of these."

There are times, said Lt. Jeff Snemis, then commander of the Merrillville detective bureau, when a wife will want to have her abuser/husband arrested.

"So you start arresting him and he resists and he starts fighting us. You might get the wife jumping on your back. She's changed her mind," he said. "Emotions are highly charged, and usually bad behavior goes along with it."

"It is one of the least popular calls police go on," said Paul Haluska, a retired sheriff's police officer working in the Protective Order Assistance Program at the Lake County Government Center. "They don't like 'em. I know I didn't particularly like 'em when I was a cop, either.

"You go into these situations and you're dealing with all these dynamics. The people may have children in common, they may own property in common. (It's) he said, she said. And you've got to find enough probable cause to make an arrest."

Haluska, who has trained more than 2,000 officers in how to deal with domestic violence cases, knows from experience that simply counseling an abuse victim to leave the relationship is advice many would like to take, but can't because of finances, children or other factors.

In the three years he has worked in the county program as well as served on several domestic violence awareness boards, he has gained some insight into violence perpetrators.

"Batterers are not angry," he said. "They don't beat up their boss. They don't beat up their co-workers. They rarely want to fight that cop when he gets there. Batterers act angry to justify what they are doing. It's a power-and-control dynamic. As best as we know … and we've barely scratched the surface of taking these guys apart and figuring out what makes them tick … they're basically very insecure individuals or they grew up in a home (where there was abuse).

"They can't do anything about their boss. They can't do anything about the traffic on the way home. They can't do anything about how Congress is going to vote on this. But, by golly, I'm going to control this house."

There are times when Haluska is questioning an abuse victim that he'll cite so many common traits, the controlling behavior, the denigration of the victim, threats to take the children: "They'll go, 'do you know this guy?'

"No, but I know how he operates. There are certain traits all abusers have. The interesting thing is when, rarely, we do get a man (as a victim), there's no difference in the male and female abuser. The female abuser will do the exact same things the male abuser will do."

The one thing many women victims have in common is that they "prize relationships. Women will hold families together, not men," said Haluska, pointing out they will try to keep a relationship going despite repeated physical assaults.

Myricks, who authored a book about her experiences called, "Phat Phat Memoirs," was a case in point.

Her batterer once told her much of his aggression toward her stemmed from his broken relationship with his mother, an alleged substance abuser. An abuse victim himself, he had a negative view of women but professed a sex addiction, Myricks said.

He had three relationships with three other women, fathering children by all three, she said. When she confronted him with the knowledge of his other affairs, she said he told her, "They don't mean anything. You're the main one. But I didn't want to be the main. I wanted to be the only one."

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