After Long Branch murder-suicide: What are the signs of violence?
There is still no official word on what happened in Long Branch, after the bodies of a man, a woman and two boys were pulled from a burning building in early Wednesday morning.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office has indicated the situation appears "not accidental." As the investigation continues, there is is increasing speculation that the incident may have been a murder-suicide.
Most neighbors, friends and co-workers of Lyndon "Shane" Beharry and Amanda Morris say the couple appeared happy and normal. However, Jane Shivas, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, says in most domestic violence situations that spiral out of control, there are signs of trouble before things turn violent.
"Often what we see in a relationship is not what goes on behind closed doors," she said. "However, there are indications that there may be abusive behavior going on when a person is publicly critical of their partner, controlling their behavior, what they wear."
She said sometimes a victim will say things like "he won't let me do this or I have to check in with my husband on everything, even minor decisions. They may be afraid to make any decisions on their own, afraid they may upset their partner, and this can be a sign of a problem."
In addition, she said out other signs can include "constant putdowns, jealousy, isolation from family and friends, it's about coercive control and trying to control another person."
Sometimes, Shivas says the abusive partner will make it so uncomfortable to be in the home that people will begin to not visit any longer.
"Domestic violence doesn't have to be physical so you may not see a black eye or bruises," she said.
In addition there is also economic abuse where the victim is not allowed to purchase things without clearance from the partner, and she said some of these behaviors happen continuously, and eventually begin to seem partially normal.
"Very often abusers may seem intelligent and personable when talking to other people," Shivas said. "They're not always a horrible, but their behavior is off."
So if someone suspects a problem in a family, what should they do?
Shivas said they should not confront the abuser, but rather "contact a domestic violence hotline, to talk with them about the signs that they're seeing, the concerns that they may have."
After sharing those concerns, she says " then they could reach out to the victim, indicate their own personal concern for them based on what it is that they're seeing."
If that situation unfolds she stresses "you should offer support but not tell them what they should or should not do, allow that person to make whatever decision they want, and to let them know regardless of the decision that they're there to support them."
Shivas also says most of the time abusers are male and victims are women but "men can be victims of domestic violence, it does not just have to be women who seek assistance."
She adds the bottom line message to a victim should be "they're not being forced to do anything, they're not being told they're a battered woman or man, but they're being given information to help them make a better informed decision about what is happening in their relationship- if you ever need to talk about it, if there's something I can do to help you, please contact me."
The statewide number for domestic abuse is 1-800-572-7233.
Read more on the Long Branch fire here: