Last week Netflix released their new movie; American Murder: The Family Next Door.
This documentary tells the story of the Watts family- a beautiful suburban mom and dad with two beautiful girls and a baby boy on the way. Because the mom utilized social media for her business, there was a LOT of homemade and authentic video footage of the family. They seemed to have the perfect life, until they didn't. It wasn't until after they were murdered by Chris that the domestic violence really came to light.
This documentary does a great job of demonstrating the real issue with domestic violence- it's usually not visible. And sometimes, even the victims don't realize what is happening at first, or until it's too late.
In this situation, we have no record or evidence of any physical abuse (not saying it didn't happen- but the documentary and podcasts have not mentioned it). However, there are some examples of emotional abuse. The difficult thing in this case is that some of the following examples can be interpreted in different ways.
For example- Chris had an affair. This could be emotional abuse, or stem from abusive behavior, or encompass emotionally abusive behavior as well, or it could just be an affair. There are plenty of men that have affairs and are not abusive.
Another example- Chris refused to engage physically or sexually. Withholding intimacy can definitely be emotional abuse, or a partner could be disinterested or just not want to for a number of reasons.
Finally, the texts. If you have seen the movie, you saw the text exchanges between Shanann and Chris, and Shanann and other parties. Chris comes off very distant. He comes off cold. This could be gaslighting, or again, this could be a disinterested spouse wanting to get out of his marriage.
This story is so sad because there were not a lot of "traditional" signs on abuse. There were several situations that could appear abusive to one person, but could also be explained away if looked at differently. It's sad, and tragic, but hopefully we can help people in the future. The first step to helping victims of emotional abuse is to learn more about the signs of emotional abuse and how to help victims that are being abused.
To learn more about emotional abuse, and signs of emotional abuse, be sure to sign up for our emails and workshops on emotional abuse.