Re: “New tool used in Maine assesses domestic assault risk” (Jan. 12):

The 13-question assessment discussed in the article is welcome news, but it is important to remember that not all domestic abuse involves physical assault, and there can be collateral victims, including children.

The evidence lies not in black eyes or cracked ribs, but rather in the anxiety, confusion, depression and uncertain anger of the victim – symptoms that impact other relationships, work, decision-making abilities, the capacity for self-care and, eventually, society.

An abuser uses the victim’s love and trust during the formative days of the relationship to gain power, then manipulates the victim into a state that resembles mental instability, eroding the ability of that victim to speak to their own experience.

Every action of the abuser is calculated to deflect cause and effect to the victim, and blame.

By the time this relationship hits the legal system, the victim may still be struggling to articulate, even to themselves, what happened, and the need for help. If there are children involved, the abuser can use the courts to ensure they retain their power over their victim for years to come.

The questions to ask in this situation are not obvious ones with black and white answers, and therein lies the power of the abusive person over not just the victim but all of us as well.

There are not necessarily laws that apply to the harm done. Yet victims must rely on the care and discernment of the legal system, which must be educated on all the ways domestic abuse reveals itself, to be returned to their full citizenship: to be truly autonomous beings, free of fear and control and free to pursue the happiness we claim is the inviolable right of every citizen.

Zoe Goody

Cape Elizabeth