How to Spot and Cope with an Abusive Man
I receive many messages and emails from foreign ladies who have discovered that their Dominican men are violent and abusive once they are living together. I don’t mean that they are all hitting their wives, but abuse takes many forms. Usually they only become aware of this once the man has their visa to travel and they are living in the United States, Canada, UK or Europe. Many will say to me that there were no signs and they had no idea why he had changed from a sweet loving and caring man to such a monster.
This whole area is very complex so let us look firstly as to why some Dominican men act like this?
Domestic Violence in the DR
Domestic violence is very high in the country and the Dominican Republic is ranked 24th in the world for femicides. According to Oxfam, nearly a quarter of all women between the ages of 14 and 49 have suffered abuse with the number of women killed increasing each year to around 250.
To put it another way, every 36 hours a woman is murdered in the DR and often by her partner, her ex partner or a jealous lover.
So why is domestic violence so prevalent?
One of the main reasons appears to be jealousy. Dominican men are known as being macho. Their machismo reflects in all aspects of male behaviour but importantly they view themselves as conquerers of women and women are often expected to play a submissive role in the household.
There can be no doubt that many of the murders in the DR are fuelled by alcohol and economic problems. If the family is hungry and the woman fights with the man because he has not provided enough money to feed them, or is keeping another woman, then that can escalate. In addition, in my experience many Dominicans, especially the poorer ones, have not had the education to be able to discuss issues within a relationship in a mature and calm manner. So any discussion quickly dissolves into a full on screaming match and physical battle from both sides. The same communication problem can arise when the couple does not speak the same language and neither has sufficient knowledge of the other’s language to communicate effectively.
The other, in my mind incredible, reason for the abuse, especially in the campos, is that the women have said to me that they would be concerned if their husband did not hit them, as by hitting them he is showing her that he loves her, as if he didn’t care if she looked at another man then it meant he did not love her.
Early signs of an abusive man
The most important thing to do is to spot potential abusers even before you think of marrying them and taking them to your country. Here are some of the early signs.
1. Extreme jealousy over ridiculous things which he may say is because he loves you, but this can escalate into domination.
2. Intimidates you by getting too close. Touches, pinches or grabs you even though you ask him not to.
3. Wants to get involved with you very quickly. Says it is love at first sight and wants a commitment from you within days, weeks or a couple of months. This is not just the behavior of a sanky – this is a sign of abusive behaviour.
4. He was part of an abusive family and has experienced abuse or seen it, so he will see it as normal and what happens in families.
5. He has an alcohol or drug problem and becomes violent or abusive when intoxicated.
6. He finds it hard to express his emotions and reacts violently or sulks when he does not get his own way. If he asks you to send him money over the phone or internet when you are living apart and you refuse, he will respond with anger, then cajoling, then loving, then more anger with swearing and telling you to go to hell or worse. Every time you say no to whatever he wants you get the same reaction. Some even threaten to kill you.
7. Nothing is ever his fault. That is a standard Dominican trait, even in the language, the plate dropped itself or the tyre punctured itself. If he starts to blame you and the way you are for the way he feels and acts, again that is a sign of abuse which can escalate.
8. Loses his temper very quickly if things don’t go his way. Road rage when driving.
9. One minute in a great mood and the next badly behaved and abusive.
10. Keen on pornography and watches it a lot. Many men and women watch porn in the DR so it is difficult to tell if this is just cultural or could lead to abuse.
11. Threatens to leave you all the time, especially when frustrated. Calls you names and says he never loved you. Criticises your appearance.
Love between two people is not about hurting each other physically or verbally or by one’s behavior. It is about caring and trying to make the other person happy. The problem is that culturally violence and abuse are prevalent throughout the Dominican culture and taking a Dominican out of the country into somewhere where they are not in control can make any underlying abusive tendencies much more obvious. Often you may have had no idea, and the abuse begins when he comes to your country. So why is that?
Why does the abuse increase after they arrive in Canada, US, UK or Europe?
When faced with the strong and assertive foreign women, this is contrary to the macho culture. It is made worse when the Dominican men do not feel in control, which many do not as they don’t understand the country or the language. When you are with them in the DR they are in control. It is their country, they know how it works and they speak the language. Whilst you are still strong and assertive, when you are here in the DR they are more in charge of where to go, what to do and how to do it. The relationship is more balanced. However, when they are taken into a totally alien situation this can result in them feeling trapped and frustrated and they lash out with violence. The men will often feel emasculated as their new foreign wife appears to be brighter, more educated, understand the system more and as time goes on, if they do not make swift progress to feel more on an equal footing, the violence will simply get worse.
What I hear most often from Dominican men in relationships which are not working out, is that their wife is trying to control them. Control where they go, what they do, how much money they spend, how much they send back to the DR. Whilst this is understandable, especially as Dominican men can spend money like water, those who understand how frustrating it is for a Dominican man to feel controlled will work out how to help him to settle in and learn the system without coming across as controlling.
Often the abusive behavior begins once they feel out of control and then they start to behave badly in terms of always on the phone and the internet back to the DR, often but not always due to homesickness. Some Dominicans will also withdraw, refuse to go out, refuse to meet people, refuse to work and refuse to share household expenses, rather spending all day in the home on line or on the phone. This is a sign of a way of punishing the wife and him trying to assert his authority but it is abusive. Many women react by then taking the phone and computer away which is another element of control and simply results in even worse behavior.
Finally there is the matter of disrespect which is the worst thing you can do to a Dominican man and will often result in violent outbursts. The big problem here is what a Dominican considers disrespectful is not the same as anyone else! It is vital that early on in your relationship you find out what your Dominican man considers disrespectful and you explain what is disrespectful to you to avoid the problem arising.
There is no easy answer but if there are any signs of abuse, verbal, behavioural or physical then it is very unlikely that it will improve and in fact, given the additional stress of a Dominican moving overseas then they will very probably get worse – much worse. Do not make excuses for these. Put your foot down about what is unacceptable behavior and if he does not change then get rid, and fast. And when he arrives, be aware of the effect of what is seen to be controlling behavior will have. Rightly or wrongly, many Dominicans hate hate hate being told what to
When is it Time to Say Goodbye?
In relationships it happens when the time comes and you realise that this is not the man you want to marry, or if you are married, you realise you no longer want to be with this person. Often the reasons you want out, are things you knew from day one, you just chose to ignore them, thought they would not be important or thought he would change. Unfortunately if you choose to marry, “Aisle Altar Hymn” or “I’ll alter him” never works.
With Dominican men, the situation is more complicated. The chances are he will never leave you, at least not obviously, and won’t say “It’s not you, it’s me,” or “I am not ready for a commitment.” Dominican men will often “commit” after 24 hours! It is also complicated because of distance so he only knows you in holiday mode, and you are not only seduced by him but also by the country and the freedom of being on holiday. Plus, it is not easy to walk away when maybe several of your friends and relations are not too happy about your relationship. Walking away tells them they were right and you were wrong and no one likes to be wrong. And the terror of losing the daily communication from someone who texts or calls you on which you have become dependent is something which stops many women from doing what they know they should – call it a day.
I talk to many people who are in relationships with Dominicans, and with the exception of a rare few, most do not say goodbye as soon as they feel something is not right. In their heart of hearts they know that something is wrong but they choose to make excuses for him. It could be that they discover the man has other women, or a wife, or begins to treat them badly – but for some reason they stay. In the vast majority of cases the relationship does come to an end a while later, but by then the lady has spent more money or been hurt more whilst waiting for something to change. So what are the signs that the relationship is destructive and not going anywhere?
- He stops answering the phone. If this happens just a few times then it is probably nothing to worry about. Electricity is horrid here so it is possible the phone was not charged. The signal can also be bad and sometimes goes out for a whole day. But if he tells you his phone is broken for a whole week the chances are that is a lie. Most Dominicans cannot live without their phone for a day let alone a week or longer. If you cannot get hold of him for a week as he doesn’t answer the phone, the chances are he is with someone else. Some will also say that they lost their phone to get you to pay for another. They know how addicted foreign women are to daily communication, but a man who manipulates you and your feelings is not worth it. Time to walk away.
- He asks you for money and you say no, and instead of accepting it, he gets angry. If this happens then run away as fast as you can. Many Dominicans have tempers and many act like 2 year old kids having a tantrum when they cannot get what they want. This will not change. If they become verbally aggressive when they cannot get what they want then there is a chance they could become physically aggressive. If he really loved you, he would understand if you cannot afford to send him money. If he starts screaming at you down the phone or sending nasty messages, time to walk away.
- He refuses to acknowledge your existence on Facebook or other social media sites. If you are engaged to or married to a Dominican then why will he not say on Facebook he is married or in a relationship? That should raise a red flag immediately. He may say that he doesn’t want his ex to realise he is in another relationship and that might be true as they ex Dominican wives can be very nasty, but it could also be that there are other women.
- He doesn’t seem to be delighted to see you when you say you are coming for a visit. This is a major red flag. I have often seen situations where a woman comes for a visit and the man is with someone else and has to wait till she leaves before being with woman number two. Time to go.
Remember, many Dominicans are brilliant liars, so if something raises a red flag they will try and wriggle out of it. The excuses may seem plausible but you really should listen to you head and not your heart.
Thinking About Divorce
This article has been inspired by speaking to several ladies recently, all of whom want to leave their Dominican husbands, kick them out, or divorce them. But what is holding them back is the backlash of “I told you so”, from those who told them they were stupid to marry them in the first place, plus the embarrassment and shame of having to admit to these friends and family that yes, they were right.
In writing this, I am grateful to all those who have had the strength to share their feelings with me, and their fears for the future and any backlash which might happen from their family and friends, and I am incredibly grateful to our resident DRsisterhood counselor, Heather, who, although not yet fully qualified has the most amazing words of wisdom for this situation.
The decision to leave any husband or divorce him is never an easy one, whether he is Dominican or any other nationality. I left and divorced my British husband and many of us were divorced before finding a Dominican man. It is hard if he is a bad man and even harder if he is a good one. In my case people thought I was mad in walking out on a man who they saw as, if not quite a saint, a really good man. When you leave you have self doubt such as “How will I manage on my own,” “I will never find anyone else”, “My family and friends will disown me”, as well as fear of what lies ahead for you. Untangling your life from his is not easy, dividing assets, money, household items, pets, and custody of children. The latter is certainly the most complex issue to deal with, and is thankfully not something that I have had to experience. But as Heather points out, these fears are totally normal and everyone who divorces goes through exactly the same emotions and problems. The point is that no divorce is a piece of cake – not just divorcing from a Dominican when everyone said you were mad to marry him in the first place. I will now leave it to Heather, who went through a divorce from her first Canadian husband, to talk through how people will react to you – as she does it much better than me. I would just say, “Stuff them,” which is why I would never make a good counselor!
“At the end of the day, there will always be people who will judge you when you leave, no matter how wonderful people thought your spouse is or was. There is simply no way around that, and it is not something that we can control. The only thing that we can control is the things that we do, how we choose to react to others, and how we choose to live our lives.
I recognize that the worry of being judged by others can be very stressful, particularly if they are close family and friends. However, I also remember being surprised by how many people actually supported me, once they learned how unhappy I really was, and how dysfunctional the relationship was that I was stuck in. (LINDSAY. This is important as everyone thought I was blissfully happy as I told no one how unhappy I was being married to my first husband. For those of you who keep your problems close to your chest, it is very hard to actually tell the truth and say, “Hey guys. I have been living in Hell for ages”, but when you decide to leave/kick him out/divorce, actually saying what you have really been going through and coping with can be amazingly liberating. Right, I will shut up again and back to Heather).
Though there may be some initial shock or inappropriate responses from loved ones at first, I discovered that the people who TRULY love and care about you will always support you, no matter what. They may not agree with what you have done in the past, but they will always support you in trying to get to a better place as ultimately, all they really care about is your happiness, which is likely why they may have been upset at the marriage initially, simply because they were worried that it would not be a good thing.
Choosing to take control of your life and leave an unhappy or dysfunctional relationship is not something that people who really care about you will tease you or taunt you about, and even if they initially react with “I told you so” then so what? They aren’t going to cut you out of their lives because they felt that he was not going to be good for you. And if they do say that (which in reality, is not as likely as one might think), they will move past it and be there for you as you navigate through it. After all, you have perhaps “seen the light” in their eyes, so they are going to rally behind you.
That being said, going through a divorce does shed light on who your true friends or loving family members are. Friends will be lost. There is no question. They will pass judgment on you for any number of reasons, and decide things about you to be true that are not, and of course that will be very hurtful. However, in the end, it actually becomes quite helpful to know who to cut out of your life and who you want to keep. What is paramount is to let go of all things and all people that are negative is which in the end will be extremely liberating.
There is a book that I always recommend to people who are contemplating divorce: Too Good to Leave / Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. It is a sort of self-help book that walks you through different aspects of a relationship and provokes real reflection on self, and on the relationship. Once the decision has been made to leave, there are two other books that I recommend: Our Turn: The Good News about Women and Divorce by Hayes, Anderson, and Melinda, and The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons.
From a therapeutic standpoint, I cannot stress enough the importance of directing one’s focus to things that you CAN control (your actions, decisions, and ultimate happiness), as opposed to things over which you have NO control (what others might do, say, think, etc.). The other major thought that is crucial for countering all of those negative self-doubt thoughts is, “This is MY life. No one else controls MY happiness. I must do what is best for ME, because I AM WORTH IT!” Cutting toxicity and negativity out of one’s life is necessary – hard, but in the end, so very worth it. I have not met any client who has been through a divorce and regretted it. They all say that it was so hard at the time, but on the other side of it, it was 100% worth it. You are about to take your life back so it is time to find your strength and use your voice. YOU CAN DO IT!”
Back to LINDSAY
Did that help? Some who now think they can do it may need counseling afterwards; almost like grief counseling as for many it can feel like a death when the person you have been with for years is no longer there. Also support groups can help, especially for others going through the same thing. Remember DRsisterhood is there to not only help you through the practical steps of getting a divorce but also with support and counseling when you need it. And you can rant at me all day long – I am used to it.
When you make that big step, to kick your abusive, cheating, violent Dominican man out of your house, that is the first stage to getting your life back. Thousands of women have managed it before and you too will manage it. We will try and help you each step of the way.