Sanctuary for the Abused

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Psychologist Explains the Psyche of Psychopaths


By April Wilkerson


When news broke of the alleged BTK Killer's capture in Wichita, it sparked new discussions and feelings toward a decades-old case: fear, relief, intrigue about such a person.

Public interest in serial killings and psychopaths is always high, says a local psychologist. But her involvement in the field is from a more analytical perspective.

Dr. Sue Stone is a clinical psychologist at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, a position she's held since January. Although her work here is in general psychology and therapy, her specialty area is psychopathy, and she came from three years' work at the Department of Corrections, doing criminal court evaluations, consulting on capital murder cases and more.

Stone says there's an adage in her field: Not all psychopaths are serial killers, but all serial killers are psychopaths. While psychopaths as serial killers are a relatively rare phenomenon, there are people functioning in society who exhibit various degrees of psychopathic behavior in their daily lives, she said.

That makes the term psychopath a relative one, but there are definite characteristics of such people, Stone said.

Psychopaths demonstrate antisocial behavior and an aggressive narcissism -- they use people through charm, intimidation or violence, she said.

"They have a parasitic lifestyle -- they live off people. Their whole mindset is domination over other people," she said. "Psychopaths are not necessarily criminal in their activities, but they are attracted to positions of power. They have no anxiety about their behavior.

"Psychopaths see themselves as wronged. They can be paranoid, feel persecuted, feel a need for revenge. They harbor a lot of persecutory beliefs." (i.e. - They are the victim, not you, in their heads)

There also is a lot of thrill-seeking with psychopathic behavior, Stone said. Over time, there will be an escalation of their behavior because they've gotten sensitized to a certain act, but then have to "up the ante" to capture the thrill they seek, she said.

That may be the case with the alleged BTK Killer, who resurfaced with letters to the media after not being heard from in a while, Stone said.

"Psychopaths have a need for recognition, not just a need for attention," she said. "They have a sense of being invincible, of 'I can outsmart you.' They're taken in by their own narcissism. It's almost like a game."
[Sociopaths] often take "souvenirs" from their victims -- pictures, jewelry, lock of hair -- to remind them later, Stone said. "They want to keep that image, the fantasy of that control going," she said.

In the BTK case, Dennis Rader has been arrested and charged in the killings of 10 people beginning in 1974. His seemingly normal life as a churchgoer and Scout leader has shocked many, but that type of appearance is not unheard-of in psychopaths, Stone said.

"It's a misnomer to think that if we saw a psychopath, he would look odd. Often, that's not the case," she said. "A psychopathic individual can be a chameleon and learn to act a certain way. That advances their opportunity to engage in certain behaviors because who would suspect?"

Often, people think that childhood abuse can create psychopathy in adults, Stone said. Childhood trauma certainly can aggravate psychopathic tendencies, but it's not a cause-effect relationship, she said. Research over the last 10-15 years is supporting the notion that psychopathy is related to a genotype (aka - GENETIC), she said.

Psychopaths also differ in that their intellectual and emotional understanding of things don't match. Stone said psychologist Robert Hare has a saying for this condition: Psychopaths know the words but don't know the music when it comes to emotions.

"They know intellectually what it is to be sad, but their empathy and regard for other people is not there," Stone said. "They can mimic the feeling, but they really can't put words to how they feel because they don't have that internal experience."

There is no known treatment for psychopaths; rather, behavior management is the course of action, Stone said. Psychopaths don't say, "I need help" because they see others as the cause of their problems; they don't have anxiety to prohibit their behavior, she said.

And studies have shown that group therapy not only doesn't work for psychopaths, it makes their behavior worse, Stone said. They use the therapy setting as practice for manipulating people.

One percent of the general population in the United States meets the criteria for psychopaths, Stone said. But the percentage is 15-20 percent in prisons because of the criminal activity psychopaths often engage in.

Instances like the BTK case often create anxiety or spark fears in people, Stone said. But it can be a good time for people to reassess their safety precautions in their homes, cars and when dealing with strangers.

"There's a certain amount of trust that goes into our daily interactions with people," Stone said. "It's important for people to realize when dealing with strangers that they need to take some precautions."
Most people want to trust and help others, but that's just the position that Ted Bundy took advantage of, she said. He would act hurt and request assistance from women -- even using props like a cast -- then as soon as they were close enough, he would abduct them, she said.

Simple actions such as locking doors at home and in the car are important, but so is protecting yourself in a vulnerable position, Stone said. It's OK to call the office of a repair company to check a person's credentials, she said, and if a stranger comes to your door asking to use the phone, ask him to step to the curb, then call the police.

"It doesn't mean we need to be suspicious of everybody. We couldn't function in life; we have to have some sense of trust," she said. "The BTK case brings up issues of safety. It's a good time to look at what areas we can be safer in our day-to-day life, while realizing that serial killers are a relatively rare phenomenon."


SOURCE

BUT SOCIOPATHS ARE NOT A RARE PHENOMENON - THE MAJORITY OF SOCIOPATHS EXPLOIT OTHERS BUT DO NOT KILL - CLICK HERE FOR MORE


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Friday, May 15, 2020

How Con Artists Choose Their Victims

From the Powerful to the Powerless: No one is immune from a good scammer.

How you are chosen and manipulated
Those whose job it is to fight fraud every day know that no one is immune to fraud, and that there are only 3 kinds of people in the world: those who have been scammed and know it; those who have been scammed and don't know; and those who haven't been scammed yet. In fact, what is an obvious scam to one person looks like a great opportunity to another; and vice versa.

From the National White Collar Crime Center: Only 7% of scam victims contact an enforcement agency

Why don't more victims report fraud crimes? Because con artists are masters at instilling a sense of fear, shame, and guilt in their victims.

They are masters of domination and intimidation, artfully weaving them into their script. And... they are masters at qualifying their prey.

The chosen
Con artists choose you very carefully. They are only interested in those people who can be turned around to believe in them without question, who can be manipulated to believe in their illusions. They don't merely seek out the greedy or the weak or the stupid. Not at all. They seek out the needy. They sniff and snuffle around until they find someone who has an unfulfilled desire that even you yourself may be unaware of until the carrot is dangled in front of your face.

Con artists will stalk anyone whose weaknesses or strengths can be used to advantage. Scan through the character traits below, and you will see the con artist's menu. As far as he is concerned any character trait can be exploited and manipulated once your needs have been established. No one is immune.

Character Traits of Victims:

Who can be Scam victims:

Right from the start
From the very moment a con artist targets you, his entire arsenal of psychological manipulation is brought into play. You are moved from a position of control to one of no control over anything at all. The con artist moves into the position of supreme power, regardless of how powerful you may be in real life.

How can this be? Because you are the only character in the play who hasn't a clue as to what is really happening. No one has given you a script to follow. The only choice given you is to react to what the other players are saying and doing.

Reality is gone, you just doesn't know it - your real world has been completely and effectively replaced with that of the con artist and his cronies. Smoke and mirrors.

You know the game is over when he starts using fear tactics to keep you off balance.

Shame, guilt, and fear
Once a con artist has completed his scam, he will yank the rug out from under you. Suddenly, without warning, you have to come to terms with the fact that you have been taken to the cleaners.

—The effect is devastating - it was planned to be

From the very start of a scam you are kept just slightly off balance so that you feel you must cling to the con artist for support. During the entire manipulation, you are being emotionally positioned so that when the con artist disappears, you will feel as if you have pushed off a merry-go-round. In effect, you were.

You are suddenly left without the rudder in whom you believed with all your heart. To admit you were wrong can be emotionally shattering. You are left reeling and alone with that voice inside your head yelling, "What have I done?!"

Dignity and self-esteem are gone, replaced with shame, guilt, embarrassment, and anger (usually self-directed). You think I'm going overboard with this description? Not really. Not only have I been there, but I get letters from victims every day and that's exactly how they all feel.

Why victims don't report fraud
  1. Many don't know where to turn, so they don't file a report anywhere.
  2. Many are so distraught that they contact every agency they can think of, which has no effect at all.
  3. Many are extremely upset when they try to talk to law enforcement, end up merely sounding hysterical, no clear story emerges, and they give up without having given the police anything to go on.
  4. Many have been threatened in one way or another by the scammer and are afraid of retribution from either the con artist himself or law enforcement.
  5. Many have gone to law enforcement only to not be believed or told it was THEIR FAULT.
  6. And finally, the majority feel themselves to be damn fools and are not about to make it worse by going public. They just can't bring themselves to admit they've made a mistake. They cannot bring themselves to admit that they have been set up by a scammer.

The 10 STEPS all con artists use to set up their victims:

Although script variations are infinite, the basic plot never changes. The best description is found in The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David W. Maurer (page 4).


Edited for Romance/ Psychological Scams:

1. Locating and investigating you, the potential victim, called a 'mark' or a 'target'.
2. Gaining your confidence
3. Steering you (luring, brainwashing, manipulation)
4. Saying 'you're the one/ their soulmate'; they want to 'marry you' (some actually do marry their marks and never stay faithful); offering to 'take care of you.'
5. Determining exactly how much you will give to the relationship (money, sex, emotional investment, etc)
6. Playing games to make SURE you are 'willing'
7. Playing you ("I'm so confused" or "I'm not sure" or "I think you deserve better than me")
8. Making great shows of affection - often publicly (buying you a ring (often a worthless ring), public proposals, flowers to your office, etc.
9. Cheating on you or disappearing while they set up the next mark
10. Forestalling action by law enforcement [by making you promises and by threatening you - reporting you as a 'stalker' or 'harasser' or calling Child Services or Animal Control on you, etc.]

with thanks to FraudAid.com

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Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Power of the Original Trauma Bond



** Warning: This post may be very triggering to the adult survivors of psychopathic/narcissistic abuse. Please use caution in reading**



While many survivors discover that their partners are psychopathic/narcissistic, many who come from childhood backgrounds of pathology, fail to realize that their parent is the foundation of the original trauma bond. They can leave partners, but continue to engage with the parent. This leaves the stench of pathology in their lives, and makes them vulnerable in continuing the bond into the future with another partner or other people who are pathological. 

Psychopathic parents are as toxic, if not more so, than the psychopathic partner.


Trauma bonds to the source of origin (parent) are incredibly powerful and equally as challenging to break. I have broken the bonds with my psychopathic father and biological siblings, and without realizing any of this stuff about trauma bonds, I went no contact with them about five years ago now. Without the break in this bond, I undoubtedly would not have been able to heal completely. This bond was broken just a couple of years prior to my break with the last psychopath in my life. 


The psychopathic parent is a ‘special’ kind of ‘crazy’. It’s amazing to me our perspectives when we see other survivors just out of relationships with psychopaths and how horrified we are at the antics of the psychopath when it comes to he and the survivor’s  children, particularly if there are custody issues. We are horrified at his contempt and lack of empathy when it comes to his children and his ability to manipulate and/or abuse them. We are appalled at the terrorist-like attempts of the psychopath to undermine his children’s relationship with the survivor through triangulation, by hateful discussion, smear campaigns, triangulations and projections about their mother or using a new victim to separate mother and child. The list is long in how he can implement his tactics. While the survivor who sees these games played out with another survivor’s ex psychopath and children, even with her own, she fails to see this has also played out in her childhood and continues to play out with her parent as an adult. She fails to be as horrified at the antics of her parent upon her, as she is in witnessing it in others situations.


Her lack of appropriate reaction of horror at the actions of her parent, is an indication of how strong the trauma bond is. It has reached a level of extremes in normalizing the highly pathological and abnormal.  The lack of  reaction that would mean salvation via no contact is not even a consideration for many of these survivors. In  my work with survivors of the psychopathic/narcissistic parent, the idea of no contact when presented to them is often met with a vicious or contemptuous response, filled with excuse, fear, obligation, guilt and denial.


The survivor with the psychopathic parent will inevitably, in most cases continue with the bond. The bond is so powerful and so intense due to a lifetime of cyclical abuse. Some of the very same abuses upon the survivor of a psychopathic parent, that are visited upon the survivor as long as there is contact, are the very same visited upon her in a romantic relationship or what she finds appalling in others. The psychopathic parent is manipulative, guilt inducing, degrading, demanding. They triangulate the survivor with siblings and other family members, creating competitions for the parent’s attention and love. Each survivor from these families plays a  specific role, which I’ll be discussing in another post, but some of the most familiar roles are scapegoat, golden child and lost child. The scapegoat is the child who is often most sensitive to the parent and equally the most abused. The sins of the psychopathic parent are liberally employed upon the scapegoat and the roles of other siblings are encouraged (especially the golden child) to abuse the scapegoat as well. The scapegoat is usually the most sensitive of the family members and the most intuitive to the abuse. The psychopathic parent knows this and fears this child most because this child is the child who understands exactly what is going on and is most likely to ‘report’ it to others. Ironically, the scapegoat can be healthiest of the family and the psychopathic parent is aware of this. This child will be tested most in weighing the possibilities as to how they can be used by the parent. If the scapegoat does not go along with the ‘plan’ set up by the psychopathic parent, this child’s abuse will be the most extreme. 

Even when the scapegoat goes along with the plan, the psychopathic parent still fears this child as the child cannot ‘pretend’  to the psychopathic parents liking, that she doesn’t know what’s going on. She always sees behind the mask and her pretentiousness is caught by the parent. Unfortunately, if the scapegoat manages to survive her childhood, her abuse will be manifested with disorders of her own, from personality disorders to complex PTSD. For the survivor who is gifted with awareness into adulthood in that she does not develop a serious disorder of her own, she will wrestle with her own empathy in her feelings of compassion for the parent and is the child most likely to take on care giving responsibilities, as well as continuing to take the abuse. Her exposure to such intense pathology also makes her vulnerable to more painful relationships with psychopaths into the future, from romantic relationships to friendships, the cycles continue, the desire to ‘repair’ the damage in a repetition complex, compulsive in nature. 

Survivors who manage to escape psychopathic partners, initially believe that they have escaped pathology altogether, separating the parent from the inevitable acting out behavior and relationship choices she has made. There is no connection for her in tying her partner selection to the original trauma bond with the parent. In a very odd way, this makes the separation from the psychopath EASIER comparatively because she still has access to the familiar, to pathology.

If she cannot act out with a partner, the parent will continue to provide ample opportunity to continue the trauma bond and addiction to pathology through continued abuse.


There are survivors who have gone no contact with their parent, such as myself but continued pathology with a romantic partner. Again, the intensity and addiction to pathology is played out with her inability to separate from the partner. In these cases, the ‘bond’ to the partner is even stronger with the loss of the original trauma bond and the relationship loss can feel very devastating as the last intense bond is broken.

She can hang on, even though she wants to let go, eventually because the parent is not there to replace it.


Survivors still tied to the parent are extremely creative individuals. The excuses to hang onto the parent are wide and varied. The almost apologetic statements by survivors on behalf of the insidious and leveling abuse of the parent stands as symbolic to the depth of their denial. Like any psychopath, the parent knows that they have control in this child’s life and no matter how awful the abuse, the child will defend the parent to the detriment of herself and others around her who continue to see her in pain with each engagement with the parent. 


There are not different ‘rules’ with the psychopathic parent, anymore than there are with the psychopathic partner. The tactics are the same and just as damaging upon the adult child. The adult child of a psychopathic parent becomes almost child like in her response to the parent, the ultimate authority figure in her life.  She overlooks the obvious degradation and the feeling of a knife to her chest with the painful abuse, is almost cathartic, as it underscores what the parent has created for her in that she is a failure, that she is worthless. It is utterly and tragically familiar. The involvement with the parent is the attempt by the survivor to right the wrongs of the abuse, the hopeless and yet prayerful power of wishful thinking for change that will never come.

The adult survivor works every angle, forgives and forgets, while the trauma continues to build over years, cementing her obligation to the parent. The survivor, desperate (although rarely acknowledged) to change the status quo, will often suggest therapy with the parent, or try to find a way to make contact ‘bearable’ while still taking the abuse. The excuses a survivor gives for continued contact are obvious in her inability to let go:  “I can’t abandon her/him!”, “There is no one else who will take care of  her/him”, “she/he raised me alone! No one else was there for me but her/him!”, “She/he would fall apart without me. I feel sorry for her/him because she/he has no one else but me.” . . .and on and on the merry go round goes. . .


The problem with this is that much of what the survivor wants to avoid is abandonment by the parent, or has an exaggerated fear of what will happen to the parent should they let go, or what will happen to themselves if they do. They fear the parents rage and anger. They feel so sorry for the parents disorder that they are compelled to put up with more abuse. In all of this, the failure to see that no one deserves abuse, not even from a parent, is a foregone conclusion in these situations.

None of what psychopaths are all about and what they do, apply to the parent as far as this child is concerned. Much of this is subconscious, a pattern weaved into the adult child over a lifetime of exposure to pathology and abuse. We automatically act out our roles and are compelled to engage in them by an unspoken, unacknowledged force of extreme evil that wages war upon our high levels of sensitivity, empathy and compassion.


The psychopathic parent is no different than a survivor’s psychopathic partner. With each engagement the parent knows they have control over the survivor. They play their  adult children like chess pieces and lack empathy for them as much as they do anyone else, there are NO EXCEPTIONS. 


To the adult child of the psychopath/narcissist: Do you want to know why you are so afraid to acknowledge the truth about your Mom or Dad or both? About maybe even your siblings if they are disordered too? Because you know they don’t love you. This truth is the most devastating of all. Acknowledging this truth is the most painful experience you will ever live through. It will call into question your own person hood, your existence. My psychopathic father never loved me. Ever. Not from the day I was born, and not up to no contact. I could not let go because if I acknowledged the truth in that he did not love me, it meant I was truly lost, it meant that no one else possibly could, if the person who was my sperm and egg donor did not and could not love me.

It meant I was anchorless, without purpose and direction, as what is suppose to be the childhood foundations built for us out of LOVE by our parents.  It called into question everything I lived. My entire life was a lie.  A lie that my psychopathic family told about me and to me. I didn’t exist as a human being to them, worthy of love and respect. My foundation was built on sands washed away by every abusive tide. What in God’s name do  you do when your foundation was not built on love from  your parent?


This is what I can share with you. YOU are not the lie. YOUR existence is meaningful and your soul and spirit full of energy and love. You were born into a psychopathic family, a tragedy yes, but YOUR life is NOT. This very knowledge can set your feet upon a path of no contact and true and genuine healing, through and through. You are of the most courageous, loving, caring group having survived in a situation where you were NOT LOVED. Your psychopathic parent removed your choices that would  reflect in adulthood, a healthy human being, a product of humanity built in a loving home environment. The key to your healing is no contact. The realization that you have the power of CHOICE as an adult to stop the abuse. The realization that you are worth more than continued exploitation by a psychopath.


Human connection is important, isn’t it? We all need this as a life giving source when it is expressed in love and care for one another. The psychopathic parent teaches us that human connection is merely for the sake of feeding off of others, to take, not to give. To act in hate and contempt, not in love. This is not you. This is not who you are. You are no longer a CHILD. You are NOT obligated to a very sick, strategically abusive individual. You are the psychopathic parents favorite target. You are endlessly exploited for the sake of the false glorification of the parent. You are the number one poison container. The psychopathic parent REVELS in their ability to hurt you, to get a rise out of you, any reaction will do. They live to harm you. Your importance to them is not found in what you want so  much to believe  in that you are loved, but rather that you are not. They know exactly what they are doing.


It is my opinion that a survivor cannot truly heal without going completely no contact with the parent. It simply is not possible. The roles we play are automatic, as in flipping a switch. When we are with them, we are ‘on’. We are not shut off until we are out of range of their targeting. When we get out of range, we obsess about what they said and/or did with the last engagement. We sound like gossipy ole ladies chatting across the fence to anyone who will listen to our martyr status with our parent. We subject ourselves to enabling others as we do our parent. Addiction is a very powerful force and you cannot engage in it in any way and consider yourself completely healed.  I would like you to think about something if you choose to ponder the realities of this post:  When  you see another survivor struggling with her ex psychopath and what he is doing to her children, put yourself in the child’s shoes.

View this survivors ex as your parent. It is the SAME. Ask yourself, why am I appalled by this but not by what my parent is doing to me? Why am I not horrified by the abuse I have taken and continue to take? When you see a survivor in pain about what the psychopath is doing to her child(ren), what makes what your psychopathic parent is doing to you, so different? What is the cost of your involvement in being engaged with someone who does not love you, but is merely using you for their own personal pleasure in causing you further harm? Can you see what the affects of the psychopathic parents abuse is having on you, and others around you while you react to them? If you have children who are exposed to your psychopathic parent, is this what you want for your children to see in how your parent treats you and in how you react to it? Obsess about it?  What ties can you connect from a past or current partner to the antics of your parent or anyone else in your life where enabling is allowed, where you fight with your empathy, where you fight with those who are manipulative, exploitive and abusive? Can you feel yourself slipping into the costume of the child in response to any of this, as you would your parent? Do you suddenly feel that, while in the presence of those who are abusive or manipulative, no matter who they are, that you are powerless? Voiceless? Listen to yourself. . .


I know these are hard questions. I know they will provoke anger, but for others they will provoke thought, and yet for others, it will hurt your heart. You are NOT a child any longer. You are NOT beholden to an abuser who cannot love, no matter who it is.

You will never have validation from the parent who created your existence biologically. Ask yourself why you believe this person loves you when it’s clear every time you engage that they don’t? The SAME principles apply to the psychopathic parent that they do ALL psychopaths. Your continued involvement makes you more vulnerable to future psychopaths. Healing from extreme childhood abuse must commence before any changes can happen into our future. This IS the original trauma bond. It must be broken before you can truly heal. The ultimate in re-victimizing yourself is the continued contact and abuse you take out of this person. Ask yourself why your psychopathic, ABUSIVE parent is the exception to the rule.


Putting into practice our awareness will only go so far while we still have abuse in our lives, especially from our parent. The danger in acting out in further relationships is there when we cannot cut ties to the parent. Engaging with the psychopathic parent is to keep the ADDICTIVE quality of the abuse GOING. We are literally practicing our addictions with anyone who is pathological.


Healing from pathology means to remove yourself from it long enough to see what your own behaviors are and have been in response to it. It is incredibly difficult, if not possible to change while engagement is still in active status.


Your psychopathic parent is not ‘different’ than all the rest. This person is the one who set you up to be abused in other relationships and to continue to take it from them. They don’t have a miraculous and just a ‘little bit’ of empathy for you. Hanging onto this belief, and the refusal to deal with and grieve the reality that this person does not love you and never could, hurts you more. Their inability to do so says NOTHING about you as a human being and the gift you were born with: empathy. Compassion for others.


I’m suggesting that you think about this. You don’t deserve abuse. Your parent will continue to apply it liberally to you and your life if you allow it. The no contact rule applies to the psychopathic partner for obvious reasons, as well as any past friendships, bosses, coworkers, children. It also applies to the parent.


I understand how painful it feels to integrate the reality of this into your heart. It is a pain like no other.


Your value and worth is not found in abuse, but a future free of it. Even if the abuser is your parent.


Onward and upward.


Note: This article also applies to men who are survivors of psychopathic women.

SOURCE

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reactive Abuse - What Is It?


“…stop making out people to be evil if they fight back. Or run away. As in divorce.


You cannot force people to submit to abuse. That is the Sin of Sodom, otherwise known as making someone bend over for it. It violates the Laws of Nature. And common sense.” - Kathy Krajco

If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship like I have, it’s likely your abuser tried to convince you that YOU are the abusive one: that YOU have PMS (a favorite accusation of male partners), YOU are over-reacting, YOU are making it all up,  YOU are the crazy one, that YOU are responsible for all the issues in the relationship, that YOU are the “time-bomb” that explodes on a regular basis. My ex-abuser even called me “Time Bomb” and mocked me about my reactions and responses to his constant abuse during the last 3-3.5 years of our relationship.

It’s a pretty safe assumption that if you’re getting this type of constant blame, mockery, and guilting from a partner in response to any and all issues that arise, you’re in an abusive relationship.

As for your partner’s assertion, yes - you may have sent angry emails or yelled or slammed doors or called names. So your abuser claims YOU were abusing him/her. Or YOU are a Narcissist, Sociopath or Psychopath.

But it’s more likely you were REACTING to being abused by your partner. What can make it even more difficult for you to see and understand at this point is that some of their abuse may be subtle and covert rather than obvious and overt. This causes further difficulty for you in identifying the abuse - and makes it easier for your abuser to convince you that it’s all your fault, or the problem is really with YOU - that you’re “crazy”, or “imagining things”.

They’ll abuse you, and when you react to that abuse, they accuse YOU of abusing THEM and they play the victim role. They don’t call it “crazymaking” for nothing!

This is the stage at which an abused partner often describes as being in the “fog” of abuse. Their abusive partner has guilted them in to accepting ALL blame for the issues in the relationship, and caused them to doubt their own perceptions of the mistreatment they’re receiving.

It’s not at all unusual for a person in an abusive relationship to REACT abusively. This does not mean YOU are the abuser, that you are crazy, have PMS etc. etc. — though the abusive partner will try to convince you that YOU are THE problem and will often succeed in guilting you into believing it. I believed it for a LONG time before I began to recognize and question the pattern of abuse and the subsequent constant blame for the abuse, and worse, the ensuing mockery because I dared respond at all to having been hurt by it.

An interesting thing to note is that an abusive partner will often be very calm when you are upset and angry. This is because when they have finally succeeded in causing your reaction of hurt, upset or anger, then THEY are in power and control over you. THIS is what abuse is about: POWER and CONTROL. And like a drug addict, they get a lot of satisfaction out of that feeling of power and control. Abusers are very disordered people in this way.

The important thing for you to know is that this relationship and this person is toxic, unhealthy, and you need to get out of it and away from this person ASAP. They are emotional vampires, sucking away from you every iota of self-esteem and spirit you ever had. (then they will complain when you have none!)

If someone can drive you to be so upset on a regular basis (and abusers are experts at this - it gives them the sense of superiority, power and control they absolutely LIVE for) then the best thing to do is GET OUT and have NO FURTHER contact with that toxic person, if it is possible for you to do so.

The thing with abusers is that they are pathologically backwards people.

Lundy Bancroft touches on this in his book. Abusive, toxic people only consider and notice THEIR own feelings and their partner’s behavior. They never, EVER consider or notice their PARTNER’S FEELINGS and their own behavior.

When they’re abusive, (verbally, emotionally, sexually, physically, financially - covertly or overtly) it is always someone else’s fault. When their partner/victim finally reacts to that abuse with anger or upset at having been abused - then that is their partner/victim’s fault too.

In their minds, it never gets down to their OWN behavior and how it affects their partner’s feelings. They like to pretend that isn’t relevant, or anything they should ever be responsible for. They ALWAYS lack empathy for their partners (beyond the early “romance” stages when they’re trying to pull you in). This lack of empathy is the mark of the beast of abuse - more than anything else.

Here’s some information that may also help explain this “reactive abuse” concept a little more:

How do you know that you are not the one who is crazy or PMS’ing and that he is really emotionally abusive?

Answer:

You are being abused if:

(1) He repeats a certain bad behavior (ie: pattern of behavior).

(2) You asked him to stop (for whatever reason) and...

(3) He refuses and continues to behave the way he has.
You may well be abusing him - but that does not mean that he is not being abusive towards you. Both parties are sometimes abusive towards each other.

People who are abusers rarely consider that they might be abusive. Even if the stresses of the relationship lead into what might be considered reactive abuse, anyone who honestly tries to adjust to the other person’s actual needs, actively listens to the other person, and makes every attempt to stop such behavior, probably is not an abuser.

Abusers do not take responsibility for their own actions, and in fact often blame the abused. When the abused person reacts to the abuse, the abuser calls that reaction abuse, and will use guilt to try to get the abused to feel responsible for the arguments or difficulties, as well as for the abuser’s actions.

This is one of the reasons getting away from an abuser is so important. Everything clarifies then.

SOURCE



While this article is written with the male as an abuser, your abuser may well be female!

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Goodbye, Martyr Man


By Melinda H.

"This is an excerpt from a letter that I wrote (but never sent, because he doesn't need more of my attention) to a manipulative jerk who is no longer part of my life. I am sending it on to you, in the hope that my experience could help someone else gain the mental clarity needed to broom some manipulator ass to the curb."

Dear Martyr Man,

You will always be the victim, in every situation where someone tries to get close to you. You cannot relate to women as equals. You look for a strong-willed woman, latch on to her, but envy her strength and ability to express herself openly, so you attack her in vicious little ways. Ways so subtle that you can easily and convincingly deny any wrongdoing and make HER look like the crazy one for even suspecting that you are a passive-aggressive game player.

You played similar games with women before, and this was a chief motivator for their anger and "abuse" towards you. If they struck you physically, that was not right, but when you paint yourself as a martyr, you *always* fail to mention the emotional and psychological abuse you were inflicting on THEM.

That's right, Martyr. You are an abuser. You. Poor little cringing, eternally victimized you.

"But abusers scream, yell and hit, and I never do that!" you protest. "I'm not that way at all. I don't have the anger gene. I am completely incapable of anger."
What you are incapable of is the truth. But I am capable of the truth and here it is.

You ARE capable of anger. In fact, you are a very angry person, as your father before you must have also been - he is clearly the one upon whom you have modeled your behavior. Like him, you were too intimidated by other people to express your anger openly, so you nursed your rage in secret and struck out instead in subtle little ways. If you were asked to do something, you made sure you "forgot" repeatedly or did a poor job. You no doubt carry this behavior on in your work and it is the reason most of the other employees don't like you. People tend not to like someone who does not do his share of the work and is sullen and resistant to new ideas. They are probably tired of your constant subterfuge and backstabbing. No doubt you also play the divide-and-conquer game, playing people off against one another.

You haven't said much about your mother, but I'll make a few educated guesses. She was a strong-willed woman who dominated you and your father, and you both resented it, but neither of you ever told her so directly. Neither of you had the courage to assert yourselves openly. So you both "got even" with her by lying, false promises, "forgetting" or otherwise sabotaging things she asked you to do, and/or withholding your attention and love. Your casual remark about what you did with her books after her death was quite breathtaking in its heartlessness.

Your mother was a model for how you view women today. As I have previously said, you go after women with strong, assertive personalities, because they fit your mother's model and because you admire them for the qualities that you yourself lack. However, you also hate them because they are strong and you are weak. Because you cannot assert yourself openly, you play psychological games designed to break them down, subvert their will, and subtly - invisibly - assert YOUR control.

That's right, Martyr Man. You want control. You are not able to control yourself and so you are controlled by others - but you resent it. So you get a feeling of control by manipulating situations with a deft, invisible hand. You "forget" that a woman asked you to do something. You "forget" NOT to do something she finds hurtful or disrespectful.

You remember to do the things YOU enjoy and want to do, and your friends think you're a great guy - the kind of guy who would do anything for his friends! (Of course you would - your reputation depends on maintaining an appearance of kindness and willingness, and anyone who doesn't know you WELL would say what a nice guy you are - you would do anything to maintain that image). But when your partner asks you to do something, you suddenly lose your memory. You wander off and fail to return, leaving her to wonder where the hell you are, getting off on her discomfort and distress. If she does something you REALLY don't like, such as attempt to leave you, you hint around at suicide and disappear, leaving her to agonize for days over your fate. Really, you're off hanging out with your buddies and drinking and having fun, but she doesn't need to know that, does she?

No doubt she has noticed the fact that after your initial, highly romantic and complimentary approach, you do a complete about-face once she's "hooked" - like Jerkily and Hyde. Once she's in a relationship with you, the kind and gentle and loving courtship behavior ceases, and the passive-aggressive battle begins. First, you begin by slowly and subtly creating distance between you - by spending less time with her every day (always her fault, because of something SHE did...) withholding your attention and affection, making sure she gets the message that your friends, your other interests, EVERYTHING else are more important to you than the person you called the love of your life. When she challenges you about this behavior, you deny it, and make her out to be irrational and crazy for even suspecting it. After all, the success of a passive-aggressive campaign depends on secrecy and camouflage.

You lie easily, leaving out little details like a wife you haven't yet legally severed ties to, and children that you almost never see. You haven't got a divorce, and you won't, because even though you hate your wife, you feel chained to her. You are dependent on her. It's a parasitic relationship. No doubt she was angry with you because you provoked her, getting a charge out of her frustration and rage, and taking full opportunity to twist the situation around until you could make yourself out to be the victim. I haven't the faintest doubt you have cheated on her many times and lied to her many times, and that was the real cause of the attack that so wounded you emotionally. You brought it on yourself, but you won't admit that part. She's completely evil, in your little fairy tale, and you are the innocent little lamb, incapable of even the slightest twinge of anger.

Every human being on this planet feels anger. You yourself have expressed anger many times to me, not the least of which was your last letter. Yet, you still cling to this desperate delusion that you are incapable of anger.

That's a lie, Mr. Martyr. One of many.

Lies undermine the trust that is vital to all relationships. But you don't care about that as long as you can feel in control. Even when control comes at the expense of love, and that is sad.

Nobody can get close to you, Martyr Man. You'll let them within a certain distance, but then you are frightened by intimacy and of your will being sublimated to another's because deep down inside you know you are not strong enough to assert your own will openly and directly. No wonder you hate bluntness, straightforwardness, truth. Those things rob you of your defense mechanisms and make you feel naked and helpless. You cannot trust another person. Instead, you use passive-aggressive techniques to distance yourself from others and gain control over them. You wither under direct confrontation, but when you are able to operate undetected, you are a cruel and effective bully.

Games You Play:

1. The forgetting game:
You are asked to do something you don't want to do. Instead of saying no, you either "forget" about it or sabotage it so badly that the results are useless. You enjoy the frustration this causes others - this is your sneaky way of asserting yourself and controlling the situation from behind the scenes.

2. The withholding game:
Once in a relationship with someone, you begin to selectively withhold your time and affection. The other person senses this pulling away and asks about it. You deny it. But you let them know, indirectly, that many other things are more important to you than they are - your friends, your work, your opera DVDs. You let them know this by leaving their company to pursue these interests without telling them you are doing so. You enjoy the feeling of being in control, knowing you have falsely promised someone your attention later in the evening and knowing you have no intention of fulfilling that promise. You will "forget" to come back, and enjoy your evening alone knowing you are ruining someone else's.

When the person confronts you about this treatment, you will act put out at the suggestion that your actions should live up to your words. You just can't remember to keep your promises! But you always remember the score you needed to finish, the DVD you needed to watch, the book you needed to read, the friends who needed your help. You know full well that this will have the effect of making your partner feel small and insignificant, and that's just the way you like your partner to feel - that way she will be more dependent on you, desperate for your attention, and under your control.


3. The lying game:
Lies roll smoothly off your tongue whenever you are confronted about your behavior and/or something you failed to mention about your past, such as being currently married and the father of two children (now that is a big thing to "forget", even if you alienated them so badly that they don't want to spend any time with you any more). Lying by omission is lying, pure and simple. But you didn't lie on purpose, you claim. No, you just forgot, or your emotional pain was so great that you just couldn't bear to tell the truth!

4. The deflecting game:
Partner becoming suspicious of your lies? No matter, just deflect the attention! Change the subject, wander off, or start ruthlessly (and falsely) putting yourself down so that she won't have the heart to be "mean" enough to pursue the matter any further. If she persists, then you play:

5. The martyr game:
This is your favorite game of all. This game allows you to escape responsibility for anything and everything by invoking your status as the most misunderstood, mistreated, helpless and victimized martyr who ever walked the earth. Nobody understands you or your pain! Don't they see that being a victim completely justifies the way you turn around and become a victimizer at will? Nobody could ever suspect poor little abused, tormented you of torpedoing relationships.

Nobody could expect such an innocent little lamb of deliberately causing emotional and psychological damage to others. Why, look at the way he cries and curls up into a helpless little ball when confronted (and when the lying and deflecting games don't work)! He could never harm ANYONE. He's so broken up over all the deaths in his family, even though they occurred YEARS ago and EVERYONE has to deal with death at some point in their lives. Broken up over the death of his friend, so much that he can't be held responsible for any of his lying, manipulative behavior. Because no one else ever suffered the way he has suffered. The Martyr has no pity or compassion for anyone else, since he saves it all for himself.

6. The superior game:
Unlike all the other people on Earth, you're incapable of anger. You're a regular Gandhi, full of kindness and respect for all, and it's such a tragedy that other people feel the need to get angry at you. You'd never push someone's buttons until they responded in anger and then deny any wrongdoing, setting them up to look like the emotional, crazy one. You'd never get satisfaction out of a nasty little game like that, because you're too superior. You're also superior to the rest of the world culturally - nobody is as sensitive and artistic as you, and nobody appreciates your kind of music, or appreciates it at such a lofty level. You especially love to pull this routine after you've seriously pissed somebody off. You respond with calm politeness - calm of course, since you have got the angry/upset reaction you were aiming for - and double-whammy the person by showing them how YOU never get angry because you are too superior a person to be capable of anger. If someone shows any personality trait that could be considered a flaw, you pull this same routine and let them know that YOU are incapable of such personality flaws, because YOU are so much better than they are.

No wonder you're so angry at being unmasked publicly. Your games depend on your victim not knowing what's going on.

You are not interested in confronting your problems or getting any help for them. You'd rather just float through life like a spineless jellyfish, stinging anyone who ventures too near. Your behavior patterns are firmly entrenched and you are too old to change.

I have no doubt you will continue this behavior pattern with the next woman you meet, and you will continue it until you drive her away, too. You like to drive women away - like to get them so fed up that they leave. That feeds your sickness in a number of ways:

it takes the burden of decision-making off of YOU;

* it enables you to play the martyr over being left by this cruel, horrible woman;
* it gets you sympathy from your next prospect.

You like hurting other people and you have no intention of changing. And that's why I left you.

And don't bother with the "I'm a wonderful sensitive human being who would never cause anyone harm; you've misunderstood me". Oh no. I have not. I have understood you at last.

I understand now how you messed with my mind and made me even fear for my own sanity, how you exploited me emotionally, how you hurt me to the point where I actually felt suicidal. I notice the neat sidestepping from any responsibility by you, how you discredit my (real) pain as a fake attempt to manipulate you. No wonder you would think this. It's called PROJECTION. It's what YOU would do in such a situation, so you project your own screwed up motives onto others.

For someone who is so wounded, so sensitive, so compassionate, so victimized, so gentle - your letters bristle with anger, threats, and nastiness. I thought you were incapable of such things, Gandhi. And you sure are lacking in any compassion at all for the women you've tormented - you have none for your wife and you have none for me. And no doubt you'll have none for your next victim.

You chose your life, and you choose to be this way. You choose it every day. You could change, and learn to be a person of truth, strength and integrity, but you choose not to. It's easier to sit in your shit and cry about how you are victimized while you are busy victimizing others. This is the life you've chosen. You have chosen to be unhappy, and to inflict unhappiness on others.

And *I* have chosen to kick your ass to the curb. Goodbye, Martyr Man, and good riddance.

Sincerely,
Melinda H.


FROM THIS GREAT SITE!

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Online Dating Is A Hunting Ground For Narcissists And Sociopaths


By Shahida Arabi

 Is our culture becoming more narcissistic? Research indicates that a higher number of younger people are meeting the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder and that we are now living in what might be called “the age of entitlement” (Twenge and Campbell, 2009).

While there are multiple factors that contribute to the rise of narcissism in our society, access to numerous methods of connecting with others in the digital age undoubtedly exacerbates the need to be seen as “special and unique.” Accompanying this need is a blatant dehumanization of others in the search for attention, popularity and admiration.
The Tinder Generation
Mobile dating went mainstream about five years ago; by 2012 it was overtaking online dating. In February, one study reported there were nearly 100 million people—perhaps 50 million on Tinder alone—using their phones as a sort of all-day, every-day, handheld singles club, where they might find a sex partner as easily as they’d find a cheap flight to Florida. ‘It’s like ordering Seamless,’ says Dan, the investment banker, referring to the online food-delivery service. ‘But you’re ordering a person.”
Nancy Jo Sales, Tinder and The Dawn of The Dating Apocalypse
With the proliferation of online dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, PlentyofFish and OkCupid, there has been a visible rise of instant gratification without emotional intimacy in our dating culture. Simultaneously, the younger generation of men and women are more likely to encounter narcissists – those without empathy – at an alarming rate in their daily lives.
While malignant narcissists can be found anywhere and everywhere and there are certainly decent people on dating websites, the online world of dating provides predators with a platform can gain access to multiple victims without accountability. Here are three ways in which we encounter narcissism in the digital age and self-care tips to keep you safe.
1. Hookup culture along with online dating has made us more desensitized to physical intimacy and instant gratification. The younger generation is growing up at an exciting yet terrifying time: a time when connections can be made instantaneously, yet meaningful connections are becoming harder and harder to find. We are being conditioned to believe that we are entitled to an unlimited number of choices as we swipe through what is virtually a human meat market. The problem is, the number of choices we have is doing little to assuage the need for fulfilling and meaningful relationships. We are now looking at what some experts have aptly called “the dawn of the dating apocalypse” (Jo Sales, 2015).

Those who are looking for casual dates and sex may be satisfied with the likes of Tinder, one of the most popular dating apps used by singles, but those who are looking for something more meaningful may be traumatized and retraumatized by the number of people who pretend to be looking for a serious relationship while misrepresenting their true intentions. Studies show that deception is common on these apps, with users creating an illusory image of who they are and what they are looking for, resulting in frustrating romantic encounters (Purvis, 2017).
Self-Care Tip A digital detox is needed, especially in times like these. Frequent online dating app users may want to take a break from swiping-induced carpal tunnel and spend time alone or with family and friends rather than engaging in serial dating. Find ways to meet people organically without using these apps; attend Meetups based on your hobbies or interests, or join clubs that center on your passions; pursue activities in your local community such as group meditations or yoga with like-minded people. Look up from the screen and engage in face-to-face conversations with the people in front of you; the more we interact with others in real life, the more hope we have for connecting with humanity in more authentic ways.
If you’re going through a break-up, resist the urge to download an online dating app to ‘rush’ the healing process. In many cases, it will only delay the natural grieving process and lead to more disappointment.
2. There might be good people with earnest intentions on dating apps, but there is no doubt that many narcissists and sociopaths infiltrate these apps and use online dating as their virtual playground and hunting ground.
Online dating gives malignant narcissists and sociopaths access to numerous sources of what is known as narcissistic supply – people who can provide them with praise, admiration, and resources – without any need for any form of investment, commitment or accountability. These digital platforms also enable narcissists to construct a very convincing and compelling false mask that lures potential targets into various scams.
But perhaps the biggest ‘scam’ is when a narcissistic predator ‘cons’ his or her target into an abusive relationship, while presenting himself or herself as the ideal partner. This is easy to do online, as emotional predators can ‘morph’ into whatever identity they need in order to hook new victims and also ‘mirror’ their victims by finding out more about them through social media, as many apps now offer the ability to link to social media profiles. Predators can also adapt their profiles to create an image of themselves that appeal to their potential victims; a majority of online dating users have been shown to have profiles that stray from the truth in some capacity (Wood, 2012). 
Self-Care Tip
Manage your expectations and listen to your intuition when online. Remember, immediate intimacy with someone can be a red flag of fast forwarding to get an agenda met. Always put your safety first and try not divulge too much about your income, your career, your relationship history or any other resource a predator might find appealing before getting to know someone. Build connections slowly and organically so that you have the necessary space to step back and reevaluate when needed.
If someone gives you an odd vibe, even through the screen, trust your instincts and don’t go any further. If someone seems to have all of your same hobbies and interests, be wary that they’re not just telling you what you want to hear or love-bombing you to get what they want.
3. Monogamy and emotional availability are becoming more and more of a rarity. Our current hookup culture and the rise of online dating apps have made emotional unavailability a new normal (Garcia, et. al 2012).
Many people now feel entitled to all the benefits of a relationship without actually being in one, engaging in the real-life equivalent of the ‘it’s complicated’ Facebook relationship status with numerous partners.
Needless to say, the effects of hookup culture can be alarming to the psyche and have a psychological impact on the way that we view relationships and intimacy in the modern age. Both younger and older generations alike are becoming accustomed to the idea of having another date or rebound at their fingertips, without having to do the inner work of healing from past relationships or working on their self-esteem.
People can ‘latch’ themselves onto the next partner without taking the time to grieve or learn from past mistakes. And those who have done the inner work to heal can find obstacles on their path to finding a fulfilling relationship, with more and more potential mates feeling they can “always do better.”
Emotionally unavailable partners can now reap the benefits of relationships without calling anyone their boyfriend or girlfriend; they can now place numerous partners into “friends with benefits” type situations.
For those who are looking for something casual and carefree, this can be empowering and exciting. For those who are looking for a longer-term commitment, however, they may have to sort through many covert manipulators before finding someone who is compatible with their needs and desires.
Double standards against women engaging in casual sex also permit emotionally unavailable, narcissistic men to benefit a great deal from these casual arrangements, while punishing women for ‘acting like men’ if they “dare” to also date multiple partners (Kreager and Staff, 2009).
Self-Care Tip
Stay true to your standards when dating, whether you’re using an online dating app, meeting people in real life or both. If you’re a person who is interested in a longer-term commitment and you feel unable to engage in sex casually without developing feelings, don’t give into anyone else’s sexual demands or expectations for the sake of pleasing them or in the hopes of ‘winning’ a relationship. A half-hearted relationship that results in more losses than gains is one where no one wins – except, of course, the person who gets all the benefits of your company without the effort.
Remember that you are already worthy of a great and healthy relationship. You don’t have to ‘earn’ the ability to be treated with respect, honesty and decency. Manage your expectations online and realize that there will be many people in cyberspace who will try to get your maximum investment while putting in the minimum effort. Integrity and transparency are becoming less and less commonplace and is especially rare online.
Do not put up with the dwindling standards for human decency. Instead, be very wary of and cut off contact with predators online who attempt to manipulate you into giving them what they want while dismissing your needs. Their actions will always speak louder than words.
The right person who is compatible with you will want what you want – whether you meet them online or in real life. There won’t be any ‘gray areas’ with the right person nor will you ever have to compromise your own standards to be with them. You won’t ever have to wonder whether you’re just ‘hanging out’ or going out. It will be clear – and that will be the relationship that will be worth investing in.
SOURCE

References

Garcia, J. R., Reiber, C., Massey, S. G., & Merriwether, A. M. (2012). Sexual hookup culture: A review. Review of General Psychology, 16(2), 161-176. doi:10.1037/a0027911

Kreager, D. A., & Staff, J. (2009). The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance. Social Psychology Quarterly, 72(2), 143-164. doi:10.1177/019027250907200205

Purvis, J. (2017, February 12). Finding love in a hopeless place: Why Tinder is so “evilly satisfying”. Retrieved here.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2009). The narcissism epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement. New York: Atria Paperback. Wood, J. (2012, February 14).

Detecting Online Liars. Retrieved from Psych Central. This article has been adapted and originally appeared on Psych Central as The Danger of Narcissists in Online Dating: How To Cope in A Culture of Instant Gratification.

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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Domestic violence victims, stuck at home, are at risk during coronavirus pandemic

by Scottie Andrew (CNN)

(CNN)Home is the safest place to be while a pandemic rages outside. Health officials have said as much for weeks now. 

But for some, home is not a haven from violence and abuse.
 
Self-isolation forces victims of domestic violence and their children into uncomfortable and dangerous circumstances: Riding out the Covid-19 crisis, shut in with their abusers.

The pandemic has shattered exit plans that some victims have spent months developing.
 
And the deluge of stress and fear -- of unemployment, of sickness, of death -- is only intensifying the abuse they face.
 
The services designed to support even the most isolated of these victims are struggling to help from a distance.

"It is the perfect storm for someone who wants to isolate or hurt their partners," said Val Kalei Kanuha, assistant dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Washington's School of Social Work.
 
Abuse survivors are familiar with the rules of social isolation already. Now, the pandemic is doing the work for abusers.

Domestic violence will likely increase in social isolation

The frequency and severity of domestic abuse will likely increase while Americans stay home for weeks or months during the pandemic, said Katie Ray-Jones, president and CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a service that connects victims of domestic violence with local resources.
 
Ray-Jones said the hotline saw an uptick in reports of partner abuse during the 2008 recession as unemployment surged. But then, victims weren't told to shut themselves in with their abusers.
 
The calls National Hotline staff have received since the start of state shutdowns are startling, Ray-Jones said: One woman said when she tried to go to work at an essential business, her abusive partner began to load his firearm to scare her into staying. Another said that her partner threatened to expose her to the virus on purpose and swore he wouldn't pay for treatment if she fell ill.  

Communities under stay-at-home orders are already reporting higher call volumes to local domestic violence resources.  

In New York's Nassau County, east of New York City, domestic violence incidents are already up 10% compared to this time last year, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told CNN affiliate WLNY. And Cincinnati-based organization Women Helping Women is receiving 30% more calls now since self-isolation started, CNN affiliate WCPO reported.

Stress heightens the likelihood for violence

Domestic violence cases spike in times of prolonged stress and disruption, like financial crises and natural disasters.
 
But most Americans have never lived through anything quite like the Covid-19 pandemic, said Margaret Bassett, director of the Expert Witness Program at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.
 
"This is a really stressful time," Bassett said. "And the more stress that a family experiences, there's a greater risk for escalation on the part of a person who's abusive."
 
Some of that stress has driven people to firearms dealers and liquor stores.
  
Gun sales are surging nationwide, as they did after 9/11 and the stock market crash of 1987. It's a symptom of uncertain times, industry analyst Rob Southwick told CNN last week. When people are afraid of the unknown, they'll buy a gun -- even if their enemy is a virus.
 
Abusers often use firearms to frighten victims, whether or not they use them, Ray-Jones said. But even an abuser's possession of a firearm makes it five times more likely that a domestic violence victim will be killed, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
 
A record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits this week -- and unemployment is strongly tied to alcohol use disorder. A 2013 study reported that as unemployment rates rise, so do dangerous drinking behaviors. And the World Health Organization said evidence suggests that excessive alcohol consumption worsens the severity and frequency of domestic violence.

Coronavirus throws a wrench in victims' plans

Abusers find ways to isolate victims without "shelter in place" mandates. But during any other time victims could still access resources like counselors and shelters. 
 
It's not so simple for survivors to up and leave their abuser either, and especially now, when access to hospitals and shelters is limited, Kanuha said. 
 
 "This particular situation with Covid-19 is so unusual because it really challenges all of us to think out of the 'just leave' box," she said. "You can't tell somebody to leave because there's no place to go."
 
Sexual assault victims may be hesitant to go to a hospital to receive a rape kit, with hospitals operating at full capacity and physicians pleading with the public to avoid burdening the health care system.
 
And typically advocates and counselors are on hand for support throughout the rape kit process. That isn't possible anymore, said Laura Pelumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
 
Many courts are closed, too, so requests for restraining orders are indefinitely delayed.
 
Some victims plan their exit strategies for months. They secretly save money and make arrangements to move with their counselors' help. But the pandemic will almost certainly interrupt those plans by draining those funds, Ray-Jones said.

Child abuse is more prevalent

The children of abuse victims know where to go to get away from the violence: School, an after-school activity, a friend's house. Anywhere but home.
 
Now that they've got nowhere to go, children's risk of abuse is heightened, said Jeffrey Edleson, professor and dean emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley's School of Social Welfare.
 
"Many of the options that battered women and their children use as safety valves to get away from violence are no longer available," he told CNN.
 
The social ties they rely on for relief are severed. Teachers, coaches and allies outside the home who may have reported the abuse aren't with them every day. Parents may go so far as to cut off their access to electronics, which most American students now use to complete schoolwork, he said.
 
"A lot of young adults I've spoken with who've been exposed to violence at home often find close friends, friends' parents, relatives and teachers who are supportive of them," he said. "It helps buffer the impact of what's going on at home. But all of that is missing."
 
Coronavirus-related child abuse has already been reported. In Fort Worth, Texas, a children's hospital said last week they treated six severe child abuse cases in the span of a week. Hospital staff said they typically see as many patients over a month, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.
 
Sometimes it's the silence that's concerning. The Oregonian reported that calls to Oregon's state child abuse hotline have dropped by more than half, from 700 daily to 300 since the day the state's schools closed. Child welfare advocates worry it's because they're not in classrooms, where teachers can report abuse on their behalf.
 
Even in families where conflict has never escalated to violence, children are now at a higher risk of physical abuse because of additional stressors like unemployment, Edleson said.
 
 "That conflict can be pushed to a physical level," he said. "And especially closed in small quarters."

How services are adjusting

Local, regional and national coalitions are still operating as essential organizations under several states' stay-at-home orders, but the way they deliver their services has changed.
 
In most cases, it's no longer possible for victims to meet with case workers, and many women's shelters have stopped accepting new clients to protect their current residents, Ray-Jones said.
 
Many victims are relying on hotlines to report their abuse and find help -- but only those who are still able to safely contact them.
 
And once the stay-at-home orders are lifted, Ray-Jones said she expects victims to flood hotlines. T
They may not know how many victims there are until the coronavirus pandemic is over.
 
"People with abusive partners don't reach out for help until the holidays are over," Ray-Jones said. "We think there's going to be a huge surge, potentially, once quarantines are lifted and people are returning to work." 
 
So social workers are preparing now, transitioning to remote work where they can and getting resources -- numbers to call, mental health services available -- in the hands of victims. 
 
But there are still victims that advocates can't reach. 
 
That's where all of us come in, Kanuha said. 
Family, friends, coworkers or neighbors should reach out to them and advocate on their behalf. Print out resources. Call a hotline if you fear for their safety. If you work together, seek them out under the guise of a work matter and ask how they're doing. Listen rather than responding right away, Kanuha said. 
 
"Just let people share and talk and ask for what they need, and then you can figure out if you can help them," she said. "The best place to start is just to listen." 
 
There's no blanket approach to help all victims of abuse. Their identities, whether they're a child or adult, identify as LGBTQ+, are differently abled or an undocumented immigrant, change the help they need and are able to get, Kanuha said. 
 
Covid-19 is another variable in their lives now. But it's one abuse victims share with nearly everyone.

Resources for victims of domestic violence 

National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
 
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool. 
 
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis. 
 
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages. 
 
Office on Women's Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662
 
A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.

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