Why does this seem to happen over and over ... and how can we stop it?
Three young girls missing in Michigan since their mother was found dead at their home have turned up safe, said police. They were with their estranged father, 35-year-old Jose Olguin, who is now in custody.
Police found the body of 32-year-old Erica Olguin at her home Monday night after she failed to pick up her 11-year-old son at school. They issued a nationwide Amber Alert for her daughters, 3-year-old Victoria, 5-year-old Lilliana and 9-year-old Elena.
Cops said they're investigating the mother's death as a homicide.
Every time we hear a story like this, our hearts break. Why must a father kill his children's mother?
"It's unlikely a woman would marry a man she believed to be dangerous," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in New York City. "In the beginning of a relationship, it's easy to ignore the warning signs of abuse and focus on the positive aspects of a person. After all, you're on a romantic hormonal high so everything he does seems wonderful."
What's more, people are not just two-dimensional. We all occasionally act in ways we're ashamed of, and nobody is perfect. And sometimes relationships go through rough patches and it can be difficult to gauge between someone behaving poorly and legitimate abuse. However, Dr. Greer says to be aware of specific signs a person is capable of hurting you. If your spouse or ex exhibits any of these behaviors, seek help immediately.
• Explosive anger or violence (i.e.: throws objects, is physically aggressive)
• Blocks exits or hides car keys to prevent leaving
• Isolates you from family and friends or otherwise limits your contact with the outside world
• Emotional abuse (name calling, ridicule, frequent criticism)
• Disregards your feelings and has a complete focus on their own needs
"The problem is, for many women, abuse is an ongoing cycle, and even if they acknowledge what's going on, they may feel it's their fault--especially if the aggressor has worked hard to make it seem that way," says Greer. "And because the woman thinks his behavior is her responsibility to fix, she won't take proper safety precautions."
And oddly enough, many times controlling behavior can feel like love. For instance, if your spouse complains when you spend time with your friends and family, at first it may seem flattering ("He wants me all to himself!"). However, Greer says this is a sign he wants to remove your support system so you have no one to turn to--except for him.
If you see these warning signs, Greer says to disengage from the relationship right away. "Leave with your children, then call to let him know you won't be returning and clearly--but briefly--tell him why," she says. "Don't confront him in person--otherwise, he'll likely try to stop you."