Sanctuary for the Abused
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Diagnosis of the Victim / Types of Abuse
In some cases it is seen that the abused partner becomes abused because it happened in her own childhood, so she is ready to accept it in the marriage. It is repetition of familiar events. In some instances the wife had a father who was indifferent, cold, often absent and often angry when present. She may not remember a single time when he hugged her – so distant was the relationship. These scenarios make her an easy victim to abuse by her husband. Women are abused and they are blamed as being the cause for that abuse. It is the worst kind of persecution. How does the victim feel? She feels hurt because he is hurting her. She feels like nothing because he is making her feel like nothing. She feels ignored because he is ignoring her – her thoughts and her feelings. She feels ridiculed because he ridicules her on a regular basis. She feels closed off, ex-communicated because he does it to her. Sometimes he causes the entire family to ex-communicate her. Whatever she expresses to her husband, he will invalidate it, he will scoff, he will discount it, he will deny it and he will oppose it. She has no self-esteem because he destroys it every chance he gets.
In a balanced and mutually loving relationship, there is the following scenario: both will love to hear the other’s thoughts. Both will express enthusiasm and delight in the other’s enthusiasm. Both will open their hearts and souls to the other. Both will nurture the other’s physical, intellectual and spiritual growth. Both will help the other. Both will live peacefully and let the other live in peace. Patricia Evans says that the wife has the right to expect respect, dignity, esteem, appreciation, warmth, empathy, an open communication, attentiveness, caring and equality in the relationship.
Generally, the wife (meaning, the victim) always blames herself for all the problems. She does this because he is telling her that she is to blame and she believes him. She believes she is not expressing herself well enough. She feels she is inadequate in every way. It is due to his endless accusations. What is noteworthy is that the more the wife gives up on getting any closeness from her husband, and the more she finds friends outside the marriage for companionship, the angrier and more abusive her husband becomes. Due to jealousy, due to his personal insecurities, he cannot tolerate that she becomes happy through other, albeit completely innocent friendships.
Let us again summarize what are the typical traits we can identify in the victim of an abusive relationship. She ceases to be spontaneous. She loses her enthusiasm for life. She is always on guard. She has lost her self-confidence and is often afraid to speak in public or to anyone outside the family, because she has been attacked so many times inside the family for what she has said. She is full of self-doubt. At times she may feel she is going crazy. She is deeply confused as to why her marriage is not a happy marriage. She feels sometimes like running away but due to her now completely codependent nature she is afraid to take the step. If the present relationship ever ends, she will be afraid or even terrified to begin a new relationship. These are the traits of an abused woman, of a victim.
Eventually, the wife feels a constant shame and humiliation at his treatment of her. Eventually he abuses her anywhere, even in front of their friends, work colleagues, at religious functions, and in public places. Her shame becomes unbounded. With this kind of humiliation, she begins to reach a breaking point, and all this while sometimes still not realizing why this is happening – that she is a victim of now extreme verbal violence. There is no other word for it. Daily a minimum of four women are murdered by their husbands in the U.S. But, in all these cases, verbal abuse preceded the physical abuse. It never happens that physical violence starts suddenly without any precedent. The first step in the sequence of violence is verbal abuse and ridicule that escalates to verbal violence, which further moves on or has the potential to move on to the physical level at any point thereafter.
Beverly Engel in her book, The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself, describes six categories of abused women. They are: (1) the selfless woman, (2) the pleaser, 3) the sinner or people who abuse themselves, (4) the codependent or the obsessive rescuer, (5) the drama junkie or people addicted to crisis situations, and (6) the victim or martyr.
In cases where the husband is highly educated, it becomes even more difficult for the wife to extricate herself from his clutches. His education serves to completely intimidate her and it becomes a simple matter to convince her that he is a logical, rational man speaking with his superior intellect, backed up by higher degrees. How many wives will have the self-esteem or the moral courage to object to torturous verbal abuse coming from such an educated man?
One lady’s husband refused to let her have a checkbook, saying men should take care of the money. She said, If a woman (or her husband) is in a high economic bracket, and she complains about not having any money, that she is penniless, we should be alert. Some complain, but far more do not tell due to shame. Some husbands will never confide in their wives regarding financial matters, will be secretive for the entire marriage, will not tell them their salary, will always give the impression they are poor or broke, will force the wife to spend any money that she may have – either earned or inherited, and will give her pittance to cover household operating expenses, forcing her to grovel and beg him for more – which then gives him the chance to say, ‘All she wants is my money.’ It is clear economic exploitation. If a woman tries to question such a man, he will react in anger, thus making the subject a taboo one for life. Can one blame a wife then if she begins to steal from his wallet to obtain enough for basic necessities – instead of having to grovel again and again? Some women have families to assist them in these situations. But other women have no one, making them completely dependent on this economically abusive husband. It is a terrible situation. He purposely doles out the money in such meager amounts that she has no option but to begin begging for more. This gives him the chance to further humiliate, deride and scorn her for begging. Today there are all situations in the society.
In some divorces, the wives make millions from their marriages. In other cases, they end up penniless. It is typical for economic abusers to compel their wives to deposit their earnings into his account. He tells her that he will handle the money. Maybe he tells her it will be easier to keep track of the balance that way. Or he may tell her that she’s not responsible enough to manage a checking account. Surprising that she is responsible enough to earn the money but not mature enough to manage it! Economic abusers generally want their wives to work and earn money, so that they can increase their own wealth. Such men will easily tell their wives that if they don’t ‘behave’, they will cut them off – kick them out of the house without a penny, without food, without clothes. What can such women do? What is the alternative for these women? It must appear to them as a very dark abyss without any escape.
According to Dr. Mary Miller, women are able to adapt more easily to economic abuse as compared to social, emotional and psychological abuse. Resourceful women in these circumstances will steal money here and there, praying their husband will not notice.
“The most powerful weapon in the hands of an oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” -- Steve BikoThe goal of psychological abuse is to undermine the wife’s security. Hence, cause will not lead to effect. The wife finds herself in a senseless, unpredictable environment created by the husband to confuse and terrify her. He will give her mental torture for days and weeks on end, and then suddenly bring her a bouquet of flowers. He will often tell her how lucky she is to have him, as otherwise she would be on the road or in a mental hospital. The tactics used by husbands to torture and control their wives are very similar to those used in brainwashing prisoners. Psychological abuse means, he will call her a slut, a bitch, a fat pig, or a whore again and again. If she makes any small mistake, he will maximize it into a big fight. Slowly she becomes convinced that she really is a slut, if not also a bitch and a whore. She loses all sense of self-worth.
Perhaps what is most common among such husbands is that invariably they convince their wives that they are dumb. The essential purpose of psychological abuse is to convince the woman that (1) she is stupid and incapable of doing anything, (2) she is a failure as a wife and mother, (3) she is innately immoral, and (4) she is essentially sinful. All of this is designed to reduce the wife to complete psychological dependence on the man. Such men are often educated but emotionally immature and hence unable to deal with a vibrant, dynamic woman. This image of the woman as strong is something he is determined to wipe out. This is why even when the wife is totally subservient, when the husband perceives the wife acting like a confident, mature adult, he erupts in psychological violence to reduce the wife to a terrified, guilt-ridden child.
It is very sad to see the survivors of such marriages – they have escaped their oppressor but the inferiority complexes he instilled remain embedded in the minds of the now physically free wives. He alternates verbal abuse with gentleness, wrath with caring, so as to constantly confuse her until she fully submits to his will. Due to daily abuse from their husbands, tormented wives far more often suffer from mental depression and poor physical health. What abused wives need more than anything else are kind people who tell them they are good, not bad. Who tell them they are (internally) beautiful, not ugly. Who tell them they are sane, not insane. They need continual praise and encouragement so that slowly these victims regain a sense of identity, begin to realize that they have some existential value, that they can love people without being tortured in return, that they can accomplish great and noble deeds in life. Gradually the victim will understand that it was not she who was insane; it was her husband who was insane in his treatment of her. Due to their own suffering, such women are in a prime position to serve others who are suffering, regardless of the cause of that suffering. Often they will relate to all human beings who are oppressed and suppressed and try their best to help them. This psychological abuse is often interwoven with emotional abuse.
Moral Abuse – Guilt Trips and Emotional Blackmail
Moral abuse is abuse of one’s character. It convinces the victim that she is immoral or guilty of known and unknown crimes. The abuser convinces her that she is innately selfish and does not deserve to be well treated by him. The way in which this is done is by continually using every opportunity to fill the wife with guilt. According to Dr. Susan Forward,
“…emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten, either directly or indirectly, to punish us if we don’t do what they want. At the heart of any kind of blackmail is one basic threat, which can be expressed in many different ways: If you don’t behave the way I want you to, you will suffer.”Dr. Forward describes a pattern that is repeated in cases of emotional abuse. First he makes a demand. Second, she offers some resistance. Third, he puts pressure. If he continues to meet with resistance, he makes threats. She doesn’t want to lose him. So the fifth stage is her compliance. And finally, this cycle repeats itself over and over, because it works! Forward likewise describes emotional abuse or blackmail by using the acronym FOG. Fear, obligation, guilt. The husband instills these three emotions into his wife by one means or the other, and she is at his command.
Fear, and fear of abandonment are in many people, and especially in women. The man needs to only touch on this fear and he can exploit it any time. If there is no recent mistake the wife has made, then the husband will bring up anything at all from the past to throw in her face and riddle her with guilt. I knew one man who, after 34 years of marriage, told his wife that she was still in love with someone she knew 36 years before – before the marriage. It was a great crime in his mind that there was somebody else before she had met him. He convinced her also that it was a great crime. His sole sick purpose was to riddle her with guilt.
Dr. Forward further describes four main types of emotional blackmailers. There are punishers, who are of two types: active punishers who make constant threats, and passive punishers who use the silent treatment. There are self-punishers, who turn the threats inward, emphasizing what they will do to themselves if they don’t get their way. Such men will threaten suicide, quitting their job. There is the sufferer. This is the person who constantly complains of his own misery and suffering. This husband will also constantly remind the wife that she is responsible for his personal suffering.
Finally there are the tantalizers. These are men who try and bribe their wives into doing what they want. Blackmailers will continually remind their wives that they themselves are wise and well-intentioned while the wives are the ‘bad guys’. The husband constructs an unreal story detailing the history of their relationship. Due to constant repetition of this story, the wife begins to accept his lies as truth.
These husbands spend their marriages minimizing their own wrong actions, denying their mistakes and blaming all problems in daily life on their women. I remember one woman who took her husband to visit her aged father, a former professor. For everything the father said, her husband would argue and contradict. Her father put him coolly in his place. After leaving, she had to bear punishment for nearly one year from her husband who almost daily would have rages, shouting at her about how badly he had been treated by her father. Though this was highly abnormal conduct, she still did not realize it. She only realized that she suffered and did not understand the reason.
Amnesty International has published a “Chart of Coercion” which outlines eight types of conduct that a controller engages in for gaining control of another person, as follows:
1. Isolation: This removes a woman’s support system, setting her up for easy brainwashing.
2. Monopolization of perception: It means eliminating outside phone calls, activities and even TV shows which would give the wife glimpses of ‘normal’ life and enable her compare it with her own.
3. Induced debility: He overworks her and allows her less sleep, as it also wears down her resistance.
4. Threats: They keep her in perpetual fear.
5. Occasional indulgences: These keep the woman confused and hopeful and in his control.
6. Demonstrating omnipotence: He can hide the car keys, deny her any money, lock the long-distance phone facility or refuse to eat her food – all to demonstrate his all-powerful control over her.
7. Degradation: It means near daily drilling into her head that she is fat, stupid, ugly, without any skills or talents, so that her self-esteem drops to nil, and she gets convinced that she doesn’t deserve better treatment. After years of this kind of abuse, when occasionally someone comes along and does a simple kindness like present her with flowers or offer praise for her cooking or hard work, she becomes overwhelmed and cries uncontrollably. Long after she has left him, his daily slander, brainwashing and hurling insults over her fatness, stupidity and worthlessness have left an indelible, near incurable stamp on her mind from which it takes years or a lifetime to recover.
8. Enforcing trivial demands: By doing this, he is conditioning her to obey bigger demands.
The bottom line is, she could never do enough. He was always unhappy with her. Her husband abused her emotionally, verbally, by humiliating her. To criticize and refuse to eat the food cooked by his wife is a clear example of emotional abuse. From there he would add other things like telling her she is too dumb to do anything right. Or he would constantly run her down for gaining weight. Later he may begin accusing her of having a lover, and may start stalking her whenever she goes out.
In such cases, if the woman works, it will be a tremendous relief for her to get out and reach the office, where smiling faces and kind people are there to surround her. She will often not understand why the workplace seems like heaven and the home like a living hell. However the husband will often start social abuse by talking to her boss and yelling at her colleagues or even making private visits to the homes of his wife’s friends to discuss the wife’s failings and mental instability. The husband will say that he is doing this merely to help solve the situation when all along his real intention is purely sadistic. This can cause friends to avoid or judge the wife, which causes her deep emotional pain. Then with relish the husband will tell the shamed wife that no one likes her, that she cannot maintain any lasting friendship with anybody. The husband will say this in a way calculated to emotionally hurt the wife. This will reduce the wife to chaotic sobbing and will eliminate any outside competitors to the husband’s emotional resources that the wife represents.
All of the other types of abuse discussed here can be viewed as means of emotional violence. Joan Zorza, director of the National Center on Women and Family Law, has noted that while women in shelters will talk easily about their broken noses, black eyes and swollen faces, it is when the talk turns to the emotional abuse that they break down sobbing, becoming riddled with feelings of worthlessness and ‘badness’ – all the ideas their spouse has been feeding them for years. Often the husband will convince the wife that she is crazy or has psychological problems, and then he takes concrete steps to prove it. Such an abuser – emotional or physical – will fight hard against his wife divorcing him, because he cannot bear to lose the control. He will tell the judge that he loves her. But, this ‘love’ will be in total contrast to his conduct, which tells the real story. The real story is, he was an emotional bully. This was the role he played in the life of his wife. Typically, such men will make mountains out of molehills. It is a clear warning to a woman that something is not right in the marriage, that something is wrong with the man. It starts over the smallest of issues, and then his anger grows into rages. The result of emotional abuse is that women lose their integrity and their dignity. They lose their self-respect.
Emotional abuse is inflicted not merely to reduce a woman to a state of psychological dependency, but for the sadistic purpose of emotional violence. Hence emotional abuse like physical abuse is done not merely to protect one’s ego but because of the pleasure the emotional violence brings. Emotional violence is designed simply to use intimate knowledge of the wife’s heart to commit emotional battery. Emotional violence, like physical violence, very easily spirals out of control because like physical violence it is so easy to do and the results are so immediate. Here the goal is simply to inflict emotional pain. This is the reason why emotional abuse along with physical abuse is the most destructive form of abuse. The goal here is to eliminate the existence of the wife emotionally as a separate being with rights and dignity.
The wife facing this violence on a daily basis is deprived of any real existence emotionally except as a resource for the husband’s emotional needs. Thus using emotional violence the husband eliminates any sense of responsibility towards the wife as a separate emotional entity with rights and needs, because by his emotional beating she is stripped of all self-identity. What women need to realize is that just like the bullies on the school-ground who used to beat up the weak boys in class, emotional bullies are in reality emotional cowards. Confident people have no need to bully others. Cowards do, because it makes them feel big and strong temporarily.
Materialists reduce the human psyche to a bundle of sensations, thoughts and emotions. Just like materialism is always connected with imperialistic conquest of other peoples and their lands, so the reduction of the wife to merely a collection of physical and emotional services is essentially a form of domestic imperialism. It is important to understand that emotional violence, even if not accompanied by physical violence, is an innate evil just as much as macro-imperialism is. Hence fighting against emotional violence in the home is just as much a required human duty as protesting imperialism in the global home.
Fighting against emotional violence through awareness programs must forcibly remind abusers that no one has the right to inflict emotional violence on another human being and that just as we can no longer commit physical violence behind closed doors, so also will society no longer tolerate emotional violence behind closed doors. It is especially important that young people be taught a zero tolerance attitude towards emotional violence.
Social abuse comprises of slandering, shaming, ostracizing and isolating the wife from her close family members and friends. The husband will not allow her to even speak to them on the phone, let alone see them. He will ridicule and deride her relatives, calling them every name he can think of, insulting their characters or personal habits, making up slander about them. One can call it called family-bashing. This is the definition of social abuse. Some women live completely isolated, always in the house, speaking to no one except their husband and children, for ten, fifteen or twenty years – nearly their entire adult life. Is it not similar to the life of a prisoner? Yet, if she expresses reluctance to mix with the husband’s ‘friends’, he will attack her forthwith and call her anti-social.
Only rarely, if it is financially required, will such a husband allow his wife to work, where she has the chance to escape her virtual prison. Still more rarely will he allow her to develop herself intellectually by taking courses. If such a wife gets the chance to do either, she lives in a world of heaven and hell – hell at home and heaven for the few hours she can escape the home. Isolation is a horrible weapon wielded by men to make their women desperate and helplessly dependent on the one person in their life – their abuser. He forces her to retreat not only from her family members but from the entire community of human beings. Another tactic used by abusers is to bring in other people – family members, friends, anyone – and use them to outnumber his already exhausted victim on issues of conflict.
It is common in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries when men leave for work to lock their women inside the house from the outside. It is shocking, however, to find out while doing research into domestic violence that here in this advanced, supposedly more civilized United States there are some husbands who also their lock their wives inside the house while they are out! They may also make sure she has no car, thus increasing her dependence and immobility.
One of the tactics of death squads throughout history, be they in medieval Spain, communist China, or fascist Guatemala, is to initiate ordinary people into the practice of killing victims. The victims are condemned in Spain as devilish Jews, in China as American capitalist agents, in Guatemala as Cuban communist agents. By making everyone a part of the process of violence they hope that everyone will be so shamed by guilt that their crimes will never be punished. On a micro-social scale this is exactly what abusers do to their wives through society.
There are different stages that relatives, friends and especially children go through as part of the drama of social abuse. They act (1) as witness to abuse, (2) as partial participant in the abuse (starting with jokes), (3) as a convert to the belief that the victim is innately stupid, evil, immoral, and (4) as an even more violent abuser than the husband himself. The end result for those who may only reach stage (1), is that they will try to block out the memory of the social abuse, thus ensuring that any kind of help or justice for the victim remains an impossible dream.
“It killed me having to ask for a few dollars to go marketing or buy the kids shoes – like a beggar. But that’s the way it was….. I tried not to notice how he made fun of opinions I expressed on anything, whether it was politics or an author… From the very beginning, if (he) didn’t get his way, he would make me pay. Sometimes he wouldn’t talk to me for weeks or wouldn’t eat, even when I cooked his favorite dinner, and believe me, I tried. Oh, how I tried!”
FROM: Wife Abuse: Breaking It Down and Breaking Out by Garda Ghista