Violence By Proxy

Content Warning: The following post is about domestic/intimate partner violence and may be upsetting to some readers, particularly survivors of emotional or physical abuse.


There is a form of domestic abuse that often precedes physical violence.  It’s called violence by proxy and it contains the usually unspoken threat of direct bodily violence as well.

My ex-husband never hit me. That’s the kindest thing I can say of him, and I believe he was working up to it. He would ruin my things, throw them or break them. He would slam doors and punch walls. He would scream and yell so the neighbors could hear, filling me but not him with shame.

One time he came close. The memory is seared into my brain, and I can remember exactly where I was standing in our apartment,  and the color of the kitchen cabinets behind him as he pulled back his fist. It’s a frozen memory, that exact moment,  the instant when it could have gone physical. 

“DO IT!” I shouted in his face while tears streamed down mine. “Do it. Hit me. Make it easy to leave you!” It was a beserker bravado borne of desperation and exhaustion; I’d given birth in a 98 hour labor just two or three weeks before and we’d spent that time fighting.  I was too tired to fight and too angry to back down.

I saw something in his eyes, some cold calculation that determined he could hit me just as well another day, when I would be less likely to leave him. I did go soon after, before he could threaten me again.

My ex-husband never hit me, but the next three women he dated all charged him with battery, and one of them gave me the material evidence I needed for a restraining order and sole custody (a handwritten sixteen page rhyming kidnapping and murder threat).

You don’t have to wait until he hits you to go. You aren’t ridiculous for jumping or being scared by violence against objects. If someone hitting walls or throwing things is scaring you, you have the right to leave them. There is no minimum level of abuse you have to put up with.

For help making a safety plan to leave well, click here.

2 thoughts on “Violence By Proxy

  1. I’ve lived in houses under fear of violence, as recently as last year. I also recall an occasion where someone I worked with feared violence from me (understandably so). I’ve been called oversensitive many times and it’s true that I have learned not to always trust my “gut feelings” on things, but I don’t always distrust them either.


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