What’s Scarier Than Ghosts and Vampires This Halloween? Not Feeling Safe in Your Own Home

Picture this: You are going about your business when you start to notice small things around your home that don’t quite add up. Your wallet is not where you left it, doors are locked that weren’t locked before, and bruises are covering your body. You have begun to think your mind is playing tricks on you, but this is far from the truth.

Is this an excerpt from a widely known paranormal horror flick? The ghostly encounter described above is not the workings of supernatural forces, but the intimidation, manipulation, and coercion associated with domestic violence. 

While many people cherish fall for it’s pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, cute date ideas, and harvest parties, October has a much more important symbolic meaning that far too often goes overlooked. National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is often clouded in the shadows of costumes and candy. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDHV), nearly half of all women and men have experienced some form of psychological abuse in their lifetime and 24 people per minute are victims of physical assault. Chances are you know these people and may not realize it. Just as you put on your mask to go out to your Halloween party, many victims of domestic violence put their metaphorical mask on everytime they leave their home. 

Shame, guilt, embarrassment, and fear are just some of the burdens these warriors may carry. Leaving an abusive relationship is hard no matter the form of abuse or the type of relationship. Despite popular belief, mentally, emotionally, and financially abusive relationships are just as hard to escape as a physically abusive relationship. Deceit and blaming act as weapons for an abuser, justifying every act of violence to a victim. Rationally, victims may see these convictions as anything but just; however, emotions can overpower our perceptions of rationality. Victims are not always blind to abuse. Victims are not complacent in abuse. Victims are not to blame for abuse.

Just as there are many ways an abuser can violate a victim’s mental autonomy, there are many environments domestic violence can take place in. Where do you call home? With a spouse? A roommate? Family? Any one of these and many more fit the criteria of a possible environment for domestic violence. Movies and films have popularized the idea that domestic violence occurs between romantic partners. While this is a very real scenario, it is not the only one. From the age of 11-14, I spent my summers living with my aunt to shake up the monotony of small town life. When visiting, I wasn’t given a lot of freedom. Food was off limits, I was restricted to one room of the house, and I was never able to do anything “the right way”. I kept going back and giving her second chance after second chance because I was not only convinced it was my fault, but she was my aunt. While as a preteen I was unable to see the true depths of this unhealthy relationship, by age 20, I have come to see that this relationship was truly abusive. Any place you see to be your home should feel safe, secure, loving, and trustworthy.

Unlike a horror film, we don’t have to wait until the end to find out who the bad guy is when it comes to domestic violence. With domestic violence, we can spot the signs, offer help, and intervene before there is a truly tragic climax. While not an extensive list, here are a few ways abuse may manifest:

  • Tells you that you can’t do anything right

  • Shows jealousy of your friends and time spent away

  • Keeps you from seeing friends or family members

  • Insults you with put-downs

  • Controls money spent in the household

  • Looks at you and acts in ways that scare you

  • Controls your every move

  • Pressures you to have sex

Still not convinced that domestic violence is worse than any scary movie? Now picture this: You are home alone and your captor has finally left the house. Is this real? Is this a test? So many questions are racing through your mind. You decide to take a leap of faith and attempt an exit. As you are on your way out the door, their car pulls into the driveway. Paralyzed, your fight or flight response is shut down and all you can do is freeze or appease. As they come towards you, you back into the house and the door shuts.

This is not a horror movie, this is real life.

Sources: 1, 2, 3