The movie Sleeping with the Enemy is ideal for a family violence class as it effectively portrays various emotions and situations associated with domestic violence. Contrary to common belief, family violence does not solely exist in financially disadvantaged or troubled households; it can occur even in seemingly stable and successful relationships. This is exemplified by Laura Burney’s husband in the movie, who appears calm and well-mannered but possesses obsessive and abusive tendencies.
At the start of the film, Mr. Burney appeared to be caring with a touch of obsession as he constantly searched for his wife and monitored her activities. However, as the movie progressed, it became evident that he also fixated on material possessions like the arrangement of towels and canned goods. Later on, Mr. Burney’s darker side emerged when he unjustly accused Laura of entertaining the neighboring doctor and spying on him from their home. This led to him violently abusing her in a state of uncontrolled anger.
Following a familiar pattern of violence, the individual engages in abusive behavior as discussed in class. In an attempt to reconcile, they resort to purchasing gifts and flowers for Laura, temporarily creating a sense of peace. It is evident that Laura lives in fear of her husband and submits to him completely to avoid any confrontations. His fixation becomes even more apparent during a conversation about a delayed dinner that occurred six months ago due to her mother’s death, serving as a reminder of a previous incident of physical aggression. Victims often endure their abusive circumstances out of distress and fear of change.
Laura had been planning for some time to escape her husband. In order to do so, she decided to take swimming lessons and devise a plan. Her intention was to feign her own death as a means of terminating the relationship, as she knew he would not permit her departure otherwise. Upon learning about Laura’s swimming lessons and discovering her ring, Mr. Burney’s mental stability deteriorated, and his sole purpose became locating her and preventing others from being with her. Ultimately, in self-defense, Laura ended the abuse by killing her husband when he found her; she pretended that he was an intruder since she assumed a different identity.