"Abusers aren't always bad. They're charming, loving and nice. This keeps the victim waiting for or thinking that the good stuff will happen all the time and the other stuff will disappear," writes Highland resident Lisa J. Peck, author of "Escaping the Shadows." This loosely autobiographical novel follows Charlene, an abused LDS middle-class wife through the trauma of emotional and physical abuse.
Peck characterizes Charlene's husband as what experts say is the typical abuser. His actions follow the cycle of abuse. In Stage 1, the honeymoon, he is romantic and charming. Tension builds in Stage 2, which leads to rage and physical abuse in Stage 3. Stage 4 includes guilt, then apologies and promises to the victim. Stage 4 leads back to the honeymoon and the cycle continues.
Like the character Charlene, "Victims are eternal optimists," said Peck. "To a victim who's used to highs and lows, a healthy relationship seems very boring. Victims have fantasies thinking that the highs will stay." She says that, on average, victims will leave their abusers seven times before a final break.
Peck was married for the first time while her husband was in the high, or honeymoon stage. "Abusers go for the quick marriage," she cautioned, explaining that, before her wedding, she had never seen him in a stressful situation. She was married just two-and-a-half months after meeting him.
She believes all relationships should be tested before marriage. "Go baby-sit together or something. If there is a mask, it will come off in different situations."
The novel is subtitled "an e-mail journey" and follows Charlene's denial, then ultimate rejection of abuse through her letters to a friend, Judy. Peck believes this format protects her audience. "It kept them out of the true ugliness of abuse. It would have been difficult for them to stay in the story. It would have been too dark," she said.
"My first husband was the upper-class abuser. The blows didn't show," said Peck who said she is now in physical therapy for neck and back injuries sustained while still in the abusive marriage.
Over 100 copies of "Escaping the Shadows" have been given to local shelters and therapists. She has spoken to Utah Valley State College criminology classes. She is also available to speak to religious groups.
"Escaping the Shadows" is available at Deseret Book, Seagull Book or on the Web, at " TARGET="_blank">www.escapingtheshadows.com.
Susan Shelton is a teacher at Pleasant Grove High School and faculty advisor to the "Viking Crier."