Sanctuary for the Abused

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Disabled Women & Abuse

Violence Against Women with Disabilities

Patricia E. Erwin, MA
Department of Criminology, Law & Society
University of California
Irvine, California, 92697-7080

An article commissioned by:
Battered Women’s Justice Project-Criminal Justice Office
2104 Fourth Avenue S., Suite B
Minneapolis, MN 55404
800-903-0111, ext. 1

In the 1990's the Federal government passed two pieces of legislation that had a major impact on the disabilities rights movement and the battered women’s movement in the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1992 and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 served notice that both communities were being afforded new protections, new resources, and renewed recognition by the Federal government. The ADA significantly broadens the scope of what is considered a disability and guarantees access to jobs and public places (Section, 1998) for the approximately 54 million Americans with disabilities (Tyiska, 1998). The VAWA adds several federal domestic violence crimes and provides for a civil rights remedy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. However, at the intersection of disability and domestic violence is a population of women that has been rendered invisible by a lack of services in the battered women’s movement and a lack of recognition of the violence in their lives by disability service providers. In the words of one researcher, the experiences of violence against women with disabilities have been neither voiced nor heard. (Chenoweth, 1997).

The multiple oppressions of being female, being disabled and being battered leave this community extremely vulnerable to intimate partners and to caregivers. In fact, all of the barriers an able-bodied victim of domestic violence might face are simply compounded by the victim’s own disability as well as the paucity of services available to help her lead a violence-free life. If women’s helplessness and vulnerability generally are seen as an opportunity as well as an excuse for male violence, disabled women’s vulnerability is seen as a blanket invitation. Disabled women are attacked again and again by partners, caretakers and strangers (Burstow, 1992). Although reliable statistics are few, some researchers who have delved into this area call the problem an “epidemic” (with most conceding it is a vast unknown. (Nosek & Howland, 1998) (Groce, 1990; Grothaus, 1985; National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1998; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1996; Sobsey, 1994; Strong & Freeman, 1997; Tyiska, 1998).


The term domestic violence is the most commonly used term to describe assault between intimates and usually includes a two-part statute: the description of what constitutes an assault and the relationship required between the parties to qualify as a “domestic” assault. For example, California statute defines abuse as:
“Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury

and “domestic violence” as:

Abuse committed against an adult or fully emancipated minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or a person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.” (California Penal Code Section 13700(a)(b).)
In addition, domestic abuse is commonly referred to as a pattern of coercive behaviors that involves physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse. It also may include repeated psychological abuse, assault, progressive social isolation, deprivation, intimidation or economic coercion (Denver, 1998). While the criminal justice system usually focuses only on a single incident that brings a domestic assault to the police or the courts, research shows that there are usually multiple incidents that have taken place and multiple interventions. A 1970's study demonstrated that in domestic homicides police had been called to the home at least once before in 80% of the cases, and more than five times in 50% of the cases (Ferraro, 1993). In addition, Dobash and Dobash (1979) found that on average, battered women leave and come back six to seven times, with the most commonly cited reasons for returning as children, lack of resources, and fear of retribution. This ongoing pattern of physical assaults coupled with other tactics of control is often termed battering (Pence & Paymar, 1993).


The problem of domestic violence generally is a well-documented and very serious phenomena. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) in 1995, female murder victims were more than twice as likely as men to have been killed by husbands or boyfriends; and for those cases in which the victim-offender relationship was known, husbands or boyfriends killed 26% of female murder victims, whereas wives or girlfriends killed 3% of the male victims’ (Craven, 1996). The rate of battering is similarly lopsided against women. The same report said that women experienced seven times as many incidents of non-fatal violence by an intimate than did males. And in the latest Department of Justice (DOJ) study, the National Violence Against Women Survey, the authors concluded:
“The survey found that women were significantly more likely than men to report being raped and physically assaulted by a current or former partner, whether the time frame considered was the person’s lifetime or the 12 months preceding the survey. Moreover, women who were raped or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner were significantly more likely to sustain injuries than men who were raped or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner. Given these findings, intimate partner violence should be considered first and foremost a crime against women.” (Emphasis added.)
National crime victim surveys on the prevalence of violence against women in intimate relationships estimate that approximately 25% of all women will experience violence by a partner at some time in their life. The National Violence Against Women Survey (1998) found that 25% of surveyed women, compared with 8% of surveyed men, said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, or date at some point in their life. The survey revealed that most physical assaults consisted of grabbing, pushing, shoving, slapping and hitting, but that as the level of violence and injury increase, the “difference between men’s and women’s rates of physical assault . . . become greater. Women were two to three times more likely than men to report an intimate partner threw something that could hurt or pushed, grabbed or shoved them. However, they were 7 to 14 times more likely to relate that an intimate partner beat them up, choked or tried to drown them, threatened them with a gun, or actually used a gun on them” (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998).

A 1996 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report on female victims of violent crime - based on several reports from the BJS and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports - found that in 1992-93, females experienced 7 times as many incidents of non-fatal violence by an intimate as did males. Each year women experience more than 1,000,000 violent victimizations committed by an intimated, compared to about 143,000 that men experienced (Craven, 1996). Clearly, the rates of violence against women by intimates in this country are significant.

Given the high rate of violence against women in general, the question arises - what about women with disabilities? According to the National Council on Disability there are approximately 54 million Americans reporting some level of disability; of these, females have a disability rate of 20.2% and a severe disability rate of 11% (Tyiska, 1998). Disabilities range from mental retardation to being wheelchair bound, from being sight-impaired to total hearing loss. But getting a handle on the number of victims with disabilities who are victimized by any types of crime has proved elusive so far. The Office for Victims of Crime, in a special bulletin on the subject says it “offers no authoritative ‘census’ describing the numbers and characteristics of the victim population under review” (Tyiska, 1998).

There are approximately a half-dozen studies looking at the subject of physical assaults against women with disabilities. Most of the studies that have been conducted in this area are from North America. They range in their estimations of the prevalence of this problem from 39% to 85% of women with disabilities experiencing some type of physical or emotional abuse at the hands of an intimate partner or caregiver. The DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada did a study of 245 women with disabilities in 1989 and found that 40% had experienced abuse (Nosek & Howland, 1998); the Institute for the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence reports on a study that found 40% of women with disabilities had been assault, raped or abused, and 39% of ever-married women with a disability had been physically or sexually assaulted by their partners (L'Institut Roeher Institute, 1994); the National Institute of Health studied 860 women, 439 of whom were disabled and found matching levels of reported physical abuse (36% in both groups) and sexual abuse (40% with disabilities vs. 37% for women without disabilities) but differences in the length of time abuse was experienced - 3.9 years compared to 2.5 years on average in favor of women with disabilities (Young, Margaret A. Nosek, Howland, Chanpong, & Diana H. Rintala, 1997); and the Colorado Department of Health reports that 85% of women with disabilities are victims of abuse (Tyiska, 1998).

Unfortunately, most of these studies do not separate out abuse by an intimate partner versus abuse by a non-intimate caregiver, and as noted earlier, do not distinguish between types of abuse committed, e.g. physical versus verbal. Only the National Institute of Health (NIH) broke down abuse by attendants and health care providers and found women with disabilities are “significantly” more likely to be abused by this population (Young et al., 1997)


Given this, it seems obvious that women with disabilities will also be victims of this type of crime (McPherson, 1991). However, none of the national surveys done to date address whether or not female victims are disabled, and the studies that have been done with this population mostly lump together all violence against women with disabilities (i.e., domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stranger assault etc.) and do not distinguish as to whether or not it was committed by an intimate partner (Nosek & Howland, 1998). According to Sharon Hickman, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities, most policy makers, service providers and researchers simply do not see the population. “ . . . they think if they don’t see a wheelchair or a guide dog there is no disability. Nobody has had the money, the interest or the clout . . . to do a good definitive study on this,” she said. “It is mostly a hidden population” (Hickman, 1998).

Societal attitudes about women with disabilities may be the cause of this exclusion as many people assume that women in this population do not have significant others.
Women with severe disabilities are not expected to have relationships. We are perceived as asexual, as not desiring love or sex or a committed involvement” (Grothaus, 1985). A recent study, however, confirms that women with disabilities are involved in intimate relationships, and very concerned about the issue of violence within these setting. The survey found that abuse and violence was one of the top five concerns according to 92% of the participants and that 85% rated it as "very important" (Freeman, Strong, Barker, & Haight-Liotta, 1996).

“The results of the Delphi survey indicate that women with disabilities themselves recognize abuse and violence, especially caretaker abuse, as a high priority issue that gets little attention from most service providers and policy makers. Women with disabilities share with non-disabled women the fact that their intimate partners may physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse them. However, they can also be subject to the types of abuse that are not issues for non-disabled women, such as denial of medications, withholding of attendant services, or preventing use of assistive devices. Assistive caretakers may be parents or other family members, or paid staff, as well as intimate partners, and the consequences of separation from these caretakers may be life-threatening.”
Caregiver violence is another aspect of interpersonal violence that women with disabilities face. Many rely on a paid or unpaid personal assistant to help them with a host of daily activities ranging from grocery shopping to bathing. The types of violence perpetrated in this relationship are outside of the usual definition of domestic violence, but can be just as impactful and can include the same physical violence many women suffer (literally - delete) at the hands of their partners.

Once in an abusive relationship, women with disabilities are motivated to stay by the same host of factors that keep non-disabled women in these relationships - fear of further violence, belief the batterer will change, love of the abuser, having children in common, having no economic support if they leave, religious beliefs, and many other concerns. But for women with disabilities there are additional factors that can limit their ability to leave such as physically not being able to exit the house, fear of losing caregiver service if they report the abuse, not knowing if the local shelter is physically accessible (i.e., wheelchair ramp, workers who know sign language), fear they will be institutionalized if they leave their partner and lack of resources. The latter is particularly important as many women with disabilities either do not work or are not employed full time. The unemployment rate of women who are disabled is reported to be 74%, and those who do work earn only 64% of the wages of able-bodied women (Burstow, 1992). Magnifying all of these issues is the fact that society’s message to women with disabilities is they are lucky to have anyone. “Disabled women may have little confidence in themselves because they have been told by society that they are not attractive . . . (they) have greater difficulties finding a spouse than non-disabled women or disabled men” (McPherson, 1991). When a woman with disabilities does get into a relationship, “she may feel validated as a woman and as a sexual being. It may be very hard for her to reject the role of lover/wife that she never expected to have in the first place” (Grothaus, 1985). And “for many young women with an intellectual disability, having a boyfriend or a fiancee is a highly desired status” (Chenoweth, 1997). Fear of losing that status may keep many of these women from reporting abusive behavior by their partner.


The intersection of being a woman in today’s society and having a disability converge to enhance the negative impact of domestic violence.
“Being a woman with a disability has been described as a “double jeopardy,” as “two strikes,” and as having an “added layer of oppression.” These metaphors speak powerfully of the experiences of simultaneous discrimination through both having impairments and being a woman . . . Identifying differences in this way is a complex process involving discrimination, marginalization, and oppression through the points where multiple identities intersect.” (Chenoweth, 1997 :116)

Additionally, support services for battered women who are also disabled are very limited with many shelters not fully accessible (Nosek, 1998). Women with disabilities “often find themselves in the situation where they not only are victims of violence in their homes, but may also be unable to apply for even the few community programs designed for the non-disabled . . . without a TTY for example, a hotline is of little help to a deaf woman . . . a shelter without a ramp is inaccessible to a wheelchair user who has been repeatedly battered and needs to leave home” (Groce, 1990). Furthermore, many of the tools offered to able-bodied battered women simply don’t work for a woman with a disability. For example, “few of the strategies listed in the classic safety plans are possible for women who must depend on their abuser to get them out of bed in the morning, dress them, and feed them” (Nosek & Howland, 1998).
If a woman seeks help from a disability service provider or other community provider she may face a lack of understanding or knowledge of domestic violence. The Center for Independent Living in Carson City, Nevada did a study in which they sent surveys to 41 local agencies with three scenarios involving women with disabilities and domestic violence. The agencies were first asked what services they might provide to the women and then were asked what information and referral they would provide to the women. Of the 16 agencies which responded, 80% failed to identify domestic violence as an issue in the three scenarios (Hammon, 1999). Although this is a very small sample, it indicates that similar surveys are needed to determine whether or not domestic violence is being correctly identified by disability service providers.

The issue of caregiver abuse raises further impediments for a woman with a disability. Reporting the abuse may result in the loss of her caregiver, whether they are an intimate partner or not. According to a review of the literature, women relying on caregivers are reluctant to report abuse because of threats that the caregiver will withdraw their services, threats by social workers that children will be taken away and threats by family members that the individual will be institutionalized or re-institutionalized (L'Institut Roeher Institute, 1994).

Police response in these situations is likewise inadequate due too few protocols instructing line officers how to handle situations when either the victim or the suspect has a disability. If a victim is in a wheelchair and wants to go to a shelter, the police need to know whether the shelter is accessible and then how to transport the victim. Police also exhibit some of the same prejudices as society at large concerning the disabled and this may be reflected in their response (L'Institut Roeher Institute 1994) (Sanders 1997). If and when a prosecutor receives a case of domestic assault or caregiver abuse against a woman with a disability, issues of credibility, corroborating evidence, and accessibility will face her once again.

Furthermore, the crossover of domestic violence and disabilities brings up two unique cause and effect scenarios. The first is the impact of battering on a pregnant woman and her increased chances of giving birth to a disabled child. Sobsey (1994) says that battery of mothers during pregnancy causes an “unknown number of disabilities in their children” and that “low birth weight babies are born 2 to 4 times as frequently to mothers battered during pregnancy.” Second, there is the issue of the number of domestic violence victims who become disabled as a result of the abuse perpetrated upon them. This figure is unknown, but the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) estimates that there are at least 6 million people each year who suffer a permanent or temporary disability as the result of crime-related incident (Tyiska, 1998).


Most women who are victims of domestic abuse not only suffer from physical assaults, but also are subject to a variety of other tactics that serve to keep them in the abusive relationship. According to the Power and Control Wheel these tactics include: intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying and blaming, using children, male privilege, economic abuse and coercion and threats. For women with disabilities in an intimate relationship, these tactics can be exacerbated by her disability. The following table gives examples of abusive tactics used against women with disabilities by intimate partners and by caregivers.

Table 1
Examples of Abusive Tactics Against Women with Disabilities by Intimate Partners and Caregivers


Dismantling wheelchairs; disconnecting phones; using medications to sedate a woman; breaking or hiding crutches; not equipping a vehicle to be driven by someone with a disability

Controlling access to family, friends and neighbors; controlling access to phone or destroying communication devices; limiting employment opportunities; discouraging contact with social work case manager or advocate


Telling them no one else will want them; calling them names i.e., ugly gimp; telling them “you’d be better off dead;” withholding medication

Punishing or ridiculing her; refusing to speak or ignoring her requests; using a negative reinforcement program

Minimizing, Denying and Blaming
Denying or making light of the abuse; blaming her disability for the abuse;

Denying her physical or emotional pain; justifying rules that limit autonomy and dignity; excusing abuse as behavior management

Using Children
Threatening to get custody if she tries to leave; threatening to report her to social workers so that children will be removed

Male or Caregiver Privilege
Speaking down to her; treating her like a child, telling her what she can eat and wear; telling a blind woman she dressed like a prostitute; telling her she is lucky to have him

Treating her as a child or servant; making unilateral decisions; denying right to privacy; providing care in a way to accentuate her dependence and vulnerability

Forcing her to sign over checks; telling her she cannot support herself; not allowing her access to money

Using person’s property and money for self; stealing money; making financial decisions without her consent; limiting access to financial; pressuring person to engage in fraud

Physical Abuse
Withholding a wheelchair, forcing her to slide along the floor; hitting, kicking, biting, punching, slapping, dragging by hair; putting something in the path of a blind person; abandoning her in a dangerous situation

Withholding food, heat, care; failing to follow medical, physical therapy or safety recommendations; missing medical appointments, not reporting serious symptoms or changes; hitting, slapping;

Sexual Abuse

Making her do sexual things against her will; telling her if she doesn’t have sex he will leave her; physically attacking the sexual parts of her body; treating her like a sex object

Being rough with intimate body parts; forcing sex against wishes; taking advantage of physical of developmental disability to engage in sex

Withholding sex because she is "too sick" or unable and blaming her for it

Note. Sources: (Groce, 1990; L'Institut Roeher Institute, 1994; Mandeville & Brandl, 1997; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1996; Strong & Freeman, 1997; Tyiska, 1998)
By looking at all these tactics one can see that very often a partner or caregiver who is abusing their victim may have to use physical violence very rarely, as the other tactics at their disposal can be very effective in keeping the victim in line.

Women who are battered and who have a disability face both personal and system-wide barriers to being able to leave an abusive situation. Whereas the battered women’s movement has drastically improved the intervention services available for non-disabled women - with increased shelter beds, criminal justice intervention systems, legal advocacy for individual women, police and prosecutor training, and a host of other initiatives - the same cannot be said for this more vulnerable population. In her discussion of a hate crime for violence against people with disabilities, Waxman (Waxman, 1991) summarizes the complex nature of the problem:
“The law does seek to protect disabled people, but only when they can be construed as vulnerable and lacking a choice about leaving a violent situation. With so few alternative life arrangements available to disabled people . . .; and with disabled people learning to be compliant and self-doubting while they are socialized to regard their non-disabled relatives and associates as safe and infallible, disabled victims of violence often have little choice but to endure the violence. In addition, some victims won’t report the violence because they’re afraid of their attackers, who are usually the very people they depend on; moreover, they fear the stigma of victimization as well as the risk that they’ll lose essential services and end up in an institution where they will most likely be attacked again. Society has little insight as to why it forces disabled people to face these intense pressures and situations, and why it therefore forces them to remain vulnerable to their abusers.”

Police Response
If a woman with a disability does decide to call the police regarding domestic violence, or if someone else reports it, the problems with accessibility do not go away. Danielle Dasch (1998), the Program Development Director at Working Against Violence, Inc., in Rapid City, South Dakota, has seen police dismiss cases involving women with disabilities because they don’t feel like she is going to be a credible witness and asks, “How do we get these cops to realize that this contributes to their (the victim’s) vulnerability?” An account from Australia reports similar attitudes and says that it is sometimes “almost impossible” to get the case into the criminal justice system. One worker there said, “The cops don’t come to places like group homes. If they do, it’s all too hard. They say the charge will never stick, the woman is a doubtful witness and it’ll get thrown out “so why bother?” (Chenoweth, 1997).

According to several reports, women with disabilities often have negative experiences with police officers, which makes it unlikely they will pursue future contact with them. Many of the attitudes, stereotypes and myths held by the public at large regarding women with disabilities, are also prevalent among members of the police force. Police officers believe these types of victims lack credibility and, in addition, the officers often lack standardized protocols for handling complaints by victims with disabilities so that responses vary widely (L'Institut Roeher Institute, 1994, Sanders, 1997).

In 1995, the Abuse Deaf Women’s Advocacy Service (ADWAS) filed a complaint under the ADA against the City of Seattle and King County for not providing sign language interpreters to deaf people in emergency situations. ADWAS systematically tracked how deaf women who were victims were handled by the criminal justice system and found the following:

· 911 operators hanging up on TTY calls

· Police not attempting to get interpreters when they respond to a call involving a deaf person

· Police communicating only with a hearing person (or child) at the scene. This could be the offender himself (Goldman & Hoog, 1995).

The latter is especially problematic if you have a domestic violence situation where the abuser is the hearing person and the victim is not. The power and control the perpetrator already has is greatly enhanced by a lack of police knowledge not only as to dynamics of domestic violence, but also by the lack of an interpreter. One police training on people with disabilities uses this exact scenario to instruct officers on how not to handle such a call (Center, 1996), showing a video where the police only speak with the man and the child in the house to determine what happened, because the woman is impaired.

The director of a program that serves women with disabilities says also if a woman calls the police and she has a speech problem, she may “sound incoherent and rambling . . . (and) they think you’re drunk and just dismiss you” (Hickman, 1998). This assertion is backed by a report stating that officers’ negative attitudes about people who have trouble communicating “may impede the investigation” (L'Institut Roeher Institute, 1994) and another which says “where a person is not able to communicate well, the police officer may see this as grounds for not pursuing a complaint” (Sanders, Creaton, Bird, & Weber, 1997).

When officers do make a report, statements from a victim who has trouble communicating or who is learning disabled may be problematic[1]. Most police departments require officers to write the statements of the parties involved which inherently includes editing on the officer’s part. When confronted with this statement later in court, most non-disabled people cannot remember exactly what they said, let alone a person with a learning disability, or a person who does not recognize the sentence construction or the words used in her statement.

Another issue facing police is that the majority of crimes against this population are not reported by the victims themselves, and often the incident will be termed "abuse" rather than assault (Sanders et al., 1997). This has obvious parallels to domestic violence situations where until the last decade or so, an assault against one’s spouse or intimate partner was simply termed a “domestic” - a private matter to be handled by a therapist rather than the courts. Police rarely wrote reports on these cases and were even less likely to make an arrest (Buzawa & Buzawa, 1993; Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Martin, 1983; Schechter, 1982). The police policy regarding domestics up until the 1980's consisted of mediation between the parties or asking one person to leave the home for the night. It was not until the mid-1980's, under pressure from battered women’s advocates, that police departments began revisiting these policies with many now following a pro-arrest policy when they have probable cause (Buzawa & Buzawa, 1993).

Court Proceedings
If and when a case of domestic violence against a woman with a disability does proceed to the prosecutor’s office, there is another set of obstacles to be overcome. In a booklet produced by the Berkeley Planning Associates (Strong & Freeman, 1997) on domestic violence and caregiver abuse, they say women with impaired cognitive skills may not be as well-equipped to negotiate the legal system, especially if they are required to defend themselves against a partner or caregiver who has greater cognitive ability. A worker at a domestic violence program in South Dakota witnessed a case where a woman with a learning disability and a physical disability was repeatedly assaulted and raped by the same man (Dasch, 1998). When the case went to court for a preliminary hearing on a protection order violation, the batterer was allowed to represent himself and to cross-examine his victim. The court allowed him to verbally abuse the victim and only stopped him when he called her a “dumb broad” and a “handicapped bitch.”

ADWAS in Seattle, reports that when victims who are deaf get to court, judges often confuse the deaf interpreter law with the foreign language interpreter law, which decrees that victims prove their poverty before the court will authorize payment for an interpreter (Goldman & Hoog, 1995). Under the ADA, the court is legally obligated to provide interpreters to victims with disabilities free of charge. Also, the courts often postpone hearings several times because no interpreter is available. This practice gives batterers a window of opportunity to intimidate the victim, convince her to recant (Ferraro, 1993) or to not get the protection order. ADWAS also notes that the Seattle courts have no system in place to provide interpreters in emergency situations, such as ex parte hearings for protection orders.


Battering During Pregnancy
As noted earlier battering during pregnancy causes an unknown number of disabilities in the children of victims. Sobsey (1994) says various studies show that between 4% and 23% of women are battered during pregnancy. Those who are beaten are twice as likely to have complications in their pregnancy than those who experienced trauma as the result of falls or auto accidents. This is obviously a cause for alarm as the rate of abuse of children with disabilities is also higher than for non-disabled children. Because domestic violence within families correlates to increased risk of child abuse within these same families, the children whose mother was abused during pregnancy could also experience greater risk for abuse as infants, children and young adults (Sobsey, 1994).

This abuse and disability cycle as laid out by Sobsey (1994), posits that some people become entrapped within the cycle, either being born with a disability, or becoming disabled as a result of abuse, thus increasing their chances of further violence.

Women Disabled from Abuse
Another important area to look at in terms of women who are domestic violence victims is the number who, as a result of their injuries, become either temporarily or permanently disabled. The Domestic Violence Initiative in Denver, Colorado reports that within their program approximately 40% of the women have disabilities resulting from abuse at the hands of their partners or caregivers (Hickman, 1998). One woman had her legs slammed in a car door by her abuser and will have both legs in casts for a year. She faces losing her home, her job and possibly her children, since she will not be able to maintain the standard of care she had provided for them.

The Office of Victims of Crime reports that catastrophic injuries as the result of violent assaults can result in loss of abilities to see, hear, touch, taste, feel, move, and think in the usual ways (Tyiska, 1998). A report by the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (1998) in Canada reports that “women have cited violence by their husbands as causing a loss of vision and a loss of mobility.” In the technical assistance manual Open Minds, Open Doors, by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1996) a story tells of a 28-year-old woman shot in the back by her boyfriend resulting in her becoming a paraplegic. A well known case in the area of police liability, THURMAN VS. CITY OF TORRINGTON, is an excellent example of how a woman can become permanently disabled due to an attack by her abuser. The police department in Torrington had previously arrested Tracy Thurman’s husband Charles and knew that she had a protection order against him. During a 1983 incident, Tracy called the police to report her husband was at her home in violation of the order. By the time police arrived, Charles Thurman had already stabbed Tracy in the neck and chest. After police arrived he kicked her two to three more times before the police officer stopped him and arrested him (Pence & Paymar, 1998). Tracy’s neck was broken resulting in permanent disabilities.

Disabilities resulting from abuse range from actual physical disabilities to more hidden trauma, including head injuries, cognitive problems, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A 1995 study looked at the incidence and correlation of PTSD in battered women. The results showed that 81% of the subjects from the group of battered women had a PTSD diagnosis, while 62.5% of the verbal abuse group met the same criteria. Those battered women with PTSD reported more physical and verbal abuse, more injuries, greater sense of threat, and more forced sex in the relationship. The authors concluded “that battered women are at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder. The women more at risk are those with more extensive physical abuse and those who have experienced abuse prior to the most recent reported battering relationship” (Kemp, Green, Hovanitz, & Rawlings, 1995).

Clearly there is a dearth of hard facts when we try to pinpoint the scope of violence against women with disabilities. One researcher concludes, “There is no question that abuse of women with disabilities is a problem of epidemic proportions that is only beginning to attract the attention of researchers, service providers, and funding agencies. The gaps in the literature are enormous” (Nosek & Howland, 1998). Research in this field is needed on a range of topics such as the scope of violence, degree of accessibility to shelter programs, but research must include recommendations for change.

Most pressing for women in violent situations is to increase the number of service providers who are knowledgeable about domestic violence and who can find accessible programs. Several projects around the country, including locations in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin and Vermont, have begun specialized services to serve as a bridge between disability service providers and domestic violence programs. These programs, some of which are no more than one person, help to facilitate cross-training of the disability and shelter communities and recommend that all agencies reach out to provide this training to their staff. They also advocate screening for domestic violence by disability providers and shelters knowing how to accommodate women with disabilities -- both physically and attitudinally.

Joint efforts between agencies can also be effective in covering the needs of this population. In Denver, Colorado, the Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities helped to craft the Denver Interagency Protocol for Crime Victims Who are Older or Who Have a Disability. Signed by the Mayor, the Department of Social Services, the District Attorney and the Chief of Police, the protocol outlines step-by-step procedures for handling assault or abuse cases involving victims who are older or who have a disability. Victims are identified immediately by the police who notify on-call staff, after which the victim is accompanied throughout the court process and receive follow-up by a victim services specialist. Collaborative ventures such as this provide possibly the best solution to an extremely complex problem.

In terms of advocacy, shelter and battered women’s programs have been very successful in championing the cause of individual victims, as well as taking the entire criminal justice system to task through systems advocacy (Dobash & Dobash, 1992; Schechter, 1982). Over the last ten years, advocacy itself has become more specialized with many programs now employing legal advocates and child advocates. The former helps all victims traverse the terrain of the criminal justice system, while the latter works with children and their mothers to balance the demands of child protection workers, the legal system and what is best for the child. This could be an effective model to help advocate for women who are disabled, given the specialized needs and resources of this population. Some might argue there is not a need for such specialized services, but if a program does not identify itself as a resource for women with disabilities, or provides inadequate service to those who do seek it out, these women will not ask for help. However, once a program becomes known as accessible, more women will turn to it for help when in a violent situation.

Any and all service providers who work with victims of domestic violence with a disability should be systematically tracking how the women are treated by other agency providers. Are deaf women getting interpreters when the police arrive? Is the courthouse, including the clerk’s office and the courtroom, wheelchair accessible? Are forms and brochures provided for in Braille, large print and on audio-tape if needed? What are the barriers faced by women when trying to leave an abusive situation? Is an emergency caregiver service available with properly screened caregivers? The questions are many, but only by tracking exactly what is and is not happening will communities be able to provide fully accessible services and safety for women with disabilities. “Whether they are in relationships or not, because of the alarming prevalence of violence against disabled women, it is important for us to be extra vigilant in noticing violence and in offering assistance. In light of the paucity of women’s shelters for disabled women, advocacy is clearly called for” (Burstow, 1992).

Training for criminal justice personnel as well as specific policies for working with victims who have a disability are also clearly called for. Through the VAWA, millions of dollars has been funneled to train police officers and prosecutors on the dynamics of domestic violence. Unfortunately, most of this training is fairly general and does not include the additional barriers facing victims with disabilities. New monies through the VAWA (when it comes up for re-authorization next year - delete) or through other federal programs is undoubtedly needed to provide additional training in this area.

In terms of policies, some argue that specialized policies have contributed to a negative stereotype of disabled people, emphasizing their “incapacities” as the defining feature of their identities, and placing them “within subordinate positions within both public and private spheres of social life” (Grattet & Jenness, 1999). However, it is likewise true that without specialized policies and procedures, women with disabilities trying to escape abusive situations will be left with a criminal justice response that does little to meet their need to be free from violence. As noted in a discussion on the feasibility of hate crime laws for people with disabilities, “ignoring difference is seldom enough to produce equality” (Grattet & Jenness, 1999).

Policies for police should include on-call advocates or disability specialists to work with police officers responding to domestic violence calls. This is one step that is relatively easy but considerably enhances the quality of the police response by letting officers focus on whether or not a crime occurred, while an advocate can provide CONFIDENTIAL crisis intervention to the victim and assist her in implementing a safety plan. Additional policies are needed requiring the provision of interpreters for hearing impaired victims, the supplying of critical forms, reports and emergency telephone cards in forms accessible to all victims, as well as ensuring the presence of advocates at each step of the criminal justice process, including police and prosecutor interviews.

While hate crime laws have been suggested as a means to increase the prosecution and thus safety of victims with disabilities (Waxman, 1991), its usefulness in domestic violence cases is open to debate. There are two avenues of hate crime to pursue if a woman with a disability is battered under gender-based provisions and under disability related statutes. However, in intimate relationships, it will be hard to show that the violence was perpetrated in response to hatred of either women or a people with disabilities, unless prosecutors can show a clear and convincing pattern. If a particular suspect could be shown to be a serial batterer of women with disabilities, its possible a prosecutor could pursue it as a hate crime, but it would be a first.

The intersection of violence against women and disabilities forces us to rethink how we evaluate difference. By privileging one status over another we feed into an either-or belief system that only serves to prop up the status quo (Crenshaw, 1997; Fineman, 1997). Instead, we must approach this problem and others like it with an eye towards inclusiveness and the realization that to solve complex problems requires a paradigm shift, from a single-axis approach to a multi-layered one. Although this is not new, the argument that women with disabilities must have a voice within the broader women’s movement and the disability rights movement is still central to achieving change . . . women must work together to shift the position of women with disabilities from one of marginalization to one of inclusion, and inclusion in women’s broader agendas is the key to reducing the violence in these women’s lives’ (Chenoweth, 1997). Without this approach, shelters and other services for battered women will remain the exclusive domain of able-bodied women, while those with disabilities will remain hidden in silence and in pain.


Burstow, B. (1992). Radical Feminist Therapy: Working in the Context of Violence. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, Inc.

Buzawa, E. S., & Buzawa, C. G. (1993). The Impact of Arrest on Domestic Assault. American Behavioral Scientist, 36(5), 558-574.

Center, L. E. R. (1996). Police and People with Disabilities [Video]. Minneapolis, MN: Law Enforcement Resource Center.

Chenoweth, L. (1997). Violence and Women with Disabilities: Silence and Paradox. In S. Cook & J. Bessant (Eds.), Women's Encounters with Violence: Australian Experiences (pp. 21-39). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Craven, D. P. (1996). Female Victims of Violent Crime (NCJ-162602): U.S. Department of Justice.

Crenshaw, K. (1997). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. In K. J. Maschke (Ed.), The Legal Response to Violence Against Women (pp. 91-149). New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Dasch, D. (1998). Program Development Director : Working Against Violence, Inc., Rapid City, South Dakota. Personal Communication.

Denver, C. o. (1998). Denver Interagency Protocol for Crime Victims who are Older or have a Disability . Denver: Denver: Mayor, Department of Social Services, District Attorney, Chief of Police.

Dobash, R. E., & Dobash, R. P. (1979). Violence Against Wives. New York: Free Press.

Dobash, R. E., & Dobash, R. P. (1992). Women, Violence and Social Change. London: Routledge.

Ferraro, K. J. (1993). Cops, Courts and Woman Battering. In P. B. Bart & E. G. Moran (Eds.), Violence Against Women - The Bloody Footprints (pp. 165-176). Newbury Park: SAGE Publications.

Fineman, M. (1997). Challenging Law, Establishing Difference: The Future of Feminist Legal Scholarship. In K. J. Maschke (Ed.), Gender and American Law: Feminist Legal Theories (pp. 53-71). New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Freeman, A. C., Strong, M. F., Barker, L. T., & Haight-Liotta, S. (1996). Priorities for Future Research: Results of BPA's Delphi Survey of Disabled Women . Berkeley: Berkeley Planning Associates.

Goldman, L., & Hoog, C. (1995, ). The Light at the End of the Tunnel? Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services Newsletter, 3, 1-4.

Grattet, R., & Jenness, V. (1999, October 1999). Policy Responses to the Victimization of Persons with Disabilities: An Assessment of the Viability of Using Hate Crime Law to Enhance the Status and Welfare of Persons with Disabilities. Paper presented at the National Academy of Sciences -- Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences Education.

Groce, N. E. (1990). Special Groups at Risk for Abuse: The Disabled. In M. B. Straus (Ed.), Abuse and Victimization Across the Life Span (paperback ed., pp. 232-238). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Grothaus, R. S. (1985). Abuse of Women with Disabilities. In S. E. Brown, D. Connors, & N. Stern (Eds.), With the Power of Each Breath: A Disabled Women's Anthology (First ed., pp. 124-132). Pittsburg: Cleiss Press - A Women 's Publishing Company.

Hammon, D. (1999). Access and Advocacy , Personal Communication.

Hickman, S. (1998). Executive Director : Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities.

Kemp, A., Green, B. L., Hovanitz, C., & Rawlings, E. I. (1995). Incidence and Correlates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Battered Women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10(1), 43-55.

L'Institut Roeher Institute. (1994). Violence and People with Disabilities: A Review of the Literature . Canada: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence.

Mandeville, H., & Brandl, B. (1997, Winter 1996/97). Promoting Personal Safety. Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence Newsletter, 15, 3-14.

Martin, D. (1983). Battered Wives. New York: Pocket Books.

McPherson, C. (1991). Violence as it Affects Disabled Women: A View from Canada. In E. Boylan (Ed.), Women and Disability (pp. 54-57). London: Zed Books Ltd.

National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. (1998). Family Violence Against Women with Disabilities, [Internet]. Health Canada Online. Available: [1998, 10/23/1998].

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (1996). Open Minds, Open Doors. Denver: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Nosek, M. A., & Howland, C. A. (1998). Abuse and Women with Disabilities (, [World Wide Web]. Violence Against Women Online Resources [1999, 11/99].

Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1993). Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth Model. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1998). Domestic Violence: The Law Enforcement Response [Video Training]. Duluth: Law Enforcement Resource Center.

Sanders, A., Creaton, J., Bird, S., & Weber, L. (1997). Victims with Learning Disabilities: Negotiating the Criminal Justice System. Oxford: Centre for Criminological Research, University of Oxford.

Schechter, S. (1982). Women and Male Violence. Boston: South End Press.

Section, C. R. D.--. D. R. (1998). A Guide to Disability Rights Law . Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

Sobsey, D. (1994). Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Strong, M. F., & Freeman, A. C. (1997). Caregiver Abuse and Domestic Violence in the Lives of Women with Disabilities . Berkeley: Berkeley Planning Associates.

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey : U.S. Department of Justice.

Tyiska, C. G. (1998). Working with Victims of Crime with Disabilities, OVC Bulletin (pp. 1-16). US Department of Justice: Office for Victims of Crime.

Waxman, B. F. (1991). Hatred: The Unacknowledged Dimension in Violence Against Disabled People. Sexuality and Disability, 9(3), 185- 199.

Young, M. E. P., Margaret A. Nosek, P., Howland, C., Chanpong, G., & Diana H. Rintala, P. (1997). Prevalence of Abuse of Women with Physical Disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Special Issue, 78(December 1997), S34-S38.

[1] A statement in a police report is essentially a “police construction. It is not the unprompted narrative of the witness, but a carefully crafted summary, often designed . . . to establish certain evidential points necessary to meet the technical requirements of proving guilt in a particular crime” (Sanders et al., 1997)

Labels: , , , , , ,

shared by Barbara at 12:43 AM 1 comments


Friday, June 16, 2023

Signs To Look For In An Abusive Personality

Many people are interested in ways to predict whether they are about to become involved with someone who will be physically abusive. Below is a list of common behaviors that are seen in abusive people. Many victims do not realize that these early behaviors are warning signs of potential future physical abuse, such as the last four (***) behaviors. If the person has several (three or more) of the first 12 listed behaviors, there is a strong potential for physical violence -- the more signs a person has, the more likely the person is a batterer. In some cases, a batterer may only have a couple of behaviors that the victim can recognize, but they may be very exaggerated (e.g., will try to explain his behavior as signs of his love and concern), and a victim may be flattered at first. However, as time goes by, the behavior becomes more severe and serves to dominate or control the other person.

1. Jealousy: At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love; jealousy has nothing to do with love, it is a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. He will question the other person about whom she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of the time she spends with her family or friends. As the jealousy progresses, he may call frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may refuse to let you work for fear you will meet someone else, or even do strange behaviors like checking your car mileage or asking friends to watch you.

2. Controlling Behavior: At first, the batterer will say that this behavior is because he is concerned with your safety, your need to use your time well, or your need to make good decisions. He will be angry if you are late coming back from an appointment or a class, he will question you closely about where you went and whom you talked to. As this behavior gets worse, he may not let you make personal decisions about your clothing, hair style, appearance.

3. Quick Involvement: Many people in abusive relationships dated or knew their abusive partners for less than six months before they were married, engaged or living together. He comes on like a whirlwind, claiming, “You are the only person I could ever talk to” or “I’ve never felt like this for anyone before. He will pressure you to commit to the relationship in such a way that you may later feel guilty or that you are “letting him down” if you want to slow down involvement or break up.

4. Unrealistic Expectations: Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all their needs; he expects you to be the perfect boyfriend/ girlfriend, the perfect friend or the perfect lover. He will say things like, “If you love me, I’m all you need and you are all I need.” You are supposed to take care of all of his emotional needs.

5. Isolation: The abusive person will try to cut you off from all resources. He accuses you of being “tied to your mother’s apron strings,” or your friends of “trying to cause trouble” between you. If you have a friend of the opposite sex, you are “going out on him” and if you have friends of the same sex, he may accuse you of being gay.

6. Blames Others for Problems: He is chronically unemployed, someone is always waiting for him to do wrong or mess up or someone is always out to get him. He may make mistakes and blame you for upsetting him. He may accuse you of preventing him from concentrating on school. He will tell you that you are at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.

7. Blames Others for Feelings: He will tell you, “You make me mad,” “You are hurting me by not doing what I want you to do,” or “I can’t help being angry.” He really makes the decisions about how he thinks or feels, but will use feelings to manipulate you.

8. Hypersensitivity: An abusive person is easily insulted, and claims that their feelings are hurt when really he is very mad. He often takes the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. He will rant about things that are really just part of living like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being asked to help others with chores.

9. Cruelty to Animals or Children: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain and suffering. He may tease younger brothers or sisters until they cry.

10.“Playful” use of Force in Sex: This kind of person is likely to throw you down or try to hold you down during making out, or he may want you to act out fantasies in which you are helpless. He is letting you know that the idea of sex is exciting. He may show little concern about whether you want affection and may sulk or use anger to manipulate you into compliance.

11. Verbal Abuse: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this can be seen when the abusive person tries to degrade you, curses you, calls you names or makes fun of your accomplishments. The abusive person will tell you that you are stupid and unable to function without him. This may involve waking you up to verbally abuse you or not letting you go to sleep until you talk out an argument.

12. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Many people are confused by their abusive partner’s “sudden” changes in mood -- you may think he has a mental problem because he is nice one minute and the next minute he is exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who are abusive to their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics like hypersensitivity.

13. *** Past Battering: This person may say that he has hit girlfriends in the past but the other person “made him do it.” You may hear from relatives or past girlfriends that he is abusive. An abusive person will be physically abusive to any one they are with if the other person is with them long enough for the violence to begin; situational circumstances do not change a person into an abuser.

14. *** Threats of violence: This could include any threat of physical force meant to control you: “I’ll slap you,” “I’ll kill you,” or “I’ll break your neck." Most people do not threaten their partners, but the abusive person will try to excuse his threats by saying, “Everybody talks that way.”

15. *** Breaking or Striking Objects: This behavior is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to terrorize you into submission. The abuser may beat on the table with his fists, throw objects at or near you, kick the car, slam the door or drive at a high rate of speed or recklessly to scare you. Not only is this a sign of extreme emotional immaturity, but there is great danger when someone thinks they have the “right” to punish or frighten you.

16. *** Any Force During an Argument: This may involve an abusive partner holding you down, physically restraining you from leaving the room, any pushing or shoving. He may hold you against the wall and say, “You are going to listen to me.”

Mixed Messages
My partner loves me . . . he didn’t mean to hurt me. (Abuse is about power and control. It is not about love.)

My partner promised to get counseling. (Abusers tend to make promises when they feel they are not in control.)

When you file charges, you have taken control away from your abuser, who is likely to promise anything to get that control back.

It is just that my partner was under a lot of stress . . . or drunk. (You can chose to believe that there are reasons, but there can never be a justifiable reason for your abuse.)

It will never happen again. (It might. Chances are, it will if your abuser is not held accountable.)

It’s really not that bad, we have had great times. (All relationships have good and bad times, but violent relationships are not good for anyone. Healthy relationships are based on caring, equality and respect. They are not about power and control.)

Types of Abuse

EMOTIONAL ABUSE - This is often the first sign of abusive behavior exhibited by someone who batters. In the beginning it may as simple as the silent treatment, but it often progresses to angry words and put downs.

Finding faults in all your friends/family (this is the first step in the isolation process)

Withholding emotions, not talking or sharing, withholding approval or affections

Does not acknowledge your feelings

Continuous criticism

Name-calling, mocking, put-downs

Yelling, swearing, being lewd

Pressure tactics (using guilt trips, rushing you, threats to leave)

Humiliated in public (including outbursts of anger to insults in public)

Manipulation by lies, omitting facts, or telling only portions of the facts

Angry gestures, slamming doors, throwing things, hitting walls or furniture near you

Threats (to harm you, to not pay bills, to not buy groceries, etc.)

Using children (making threats to take them or to call DHS, criticizing your parenting skills)

ECONOMIC ABUSE - Again, this begins in subtle ways and develops into the abuser's dominant control over all economic aspects.

Insisting that you quit your job (saying he will take care of you, sites faults with coworkers and bosses - point out how they "mistreat" you)

Recanting on promises to pay bills (for example, your car payment, insurance, etc.)

Makes you account for your spending with no accounting for abuser's spending

Limiting your access to funds (taking ATM card or removing your name from accounts)

Not paying bills, buying groceries, or taking care of the children's needs

PHYSICAL ABUSE - This is usually first exhibited by getting "in your face" or invading your personal space during an argument and progresses into offensive and harmful touches.
Shouting at you

Invading your personal space




Pull hair




Cleaning/displaying weapons

Refusing to let you leave

Being locked in/out of house

Destroying your possessions

Abandoned in dangerous places

Driving recklessly

Disabling car, hiding keys to car

Refusing medical care

Hurtful/unwanted touching of sexual parts

Rape (use of force, threats, coercion, or manipulation to obtain sex)

Intimidating by blocking exit, making threatening gestures

Refusing to let you sleep until he is ready to sleep/or making you go to sleep at the same time he does

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
Answering the following questions may help you determine whether the relationship you are in is abusive. Check the questions that apply to you:

Does your partner:
Embarrass you in front of people?

Belittle your accomplishments?

Make you feel unworthy?

Criticize your sexual performance?

Constantly contradict himself/herself to confuse you?

Do things for which you are constantly making excuses to others or yourself?

Isolate you from many of the people you care about most?

Make you feel ashamed a lot of the time?

Make you believe he is smarter than you and therefore more able to make decisions?

Make you feel like you are crazy?

Make you perform sexual acts that are embarrassing or demeaning to you?

Use intimidation to make you do what he wants?

Prevent you from doing common-place activities such as visiting friends or family, or
talking to the opposite sex?

Control the financial aspects of your life?

Use money as a way of controlling you?

Make you believe that you can not exist without him?

Make you feel that there is no way out and that "you made your own bed and you must lie in it?

Make you find ways of compromising your feelings for the sake of peace?

Treat you roughly (grab, pinch, push, or shove you)?

Threaten you (verbally or with a weapon)?

Hold you to keep you from leaving after an argument?

Lose control when he is drunk or using drugs?

Get extremely angry, frequently, and without an apparent cause?

Escalate his anger into violence . . .slapping, kicking, etc?

Not believe that he has hurt you, nor feel sorry for what he has done?

Physically force you to do what you do not want to do?

Do you:

Do you believe you can help your partner change his abusive behavior if you were only to change yourself in some way, if you only did some things differently, if you really loved him more?

Believe that you deserve to be abused or punished?

Find that not making him angry has become a major part of your life?

Do what he wants you to do, rather than what you want to do, out of fear?

Stay with him only because you’re afraid he might hurt you if you left?

If you answered "yes" to many of these questions, you have identified an abusive relationship. If the abuse has occurred during dating, it is very likely to continue after marriage. Once physical abuse has occurred, it is likely to occur again and to escalate over time. You cannot change your partner’s behavior. You can only change yourself. It is not necessary to stay in a relationship of fear. You have the right to choose how you wish to live.

Traits And Characteristics Of Violent Offenders

1. Low Frustration Tolerance - Reacts to stress in self-defeating ways, unable to cope effectively with anxiety, acts out when frustrated. Frustration leads to aggression.

2. Impulsive - Is quick to act, wants immediate gratification, has little or no consideration for the consequences, lacks insight, has poor judgment, has limited cognitive filtering.

3. Emotional Liability/Depression - Quick-tempered, short-fused, hot-headed, rapid mood swings, moody, sullen, irritable, humorless.

4. Childhood Abuse - Sexual and physical abuse, maternal or paternal deprivation,
rejection, abandonment, exposure to violent role models in the home.

5. Loner - Is isolated and withdrawn, has poor interpersonal relations, has no empathy for others, lacks feeling of guilt and remorse.

6. Overly sensitive - Hypersensitive to criticism and real or perceived slights, suspicious, fearful, distrustful, paranoid.

7. Altered Consciousness - Sees red, “blanking,” has blackouts, de-realization/depersonalization. ("It’s like I wasn’t there" or "It was me, but not me”), impaired reality testing, hallucinations.

8. Threats of Violence - Toward self and/or others, direct, veiled, implied, or conditional.

9. Blames Others – Projects blame onto others, fatalistic, external locus of control, avoids personal responsibility for behavior, views self as “victim” instead of “victimizer,” self-centered, sense of entitlement.

10. Chemical Abuse - Especially alcohol, opiates, amphetamines, crack, and hallucinogens (PCP, LSD), an angry drunk, dramatic personality/mood changes when under the influence.

11. Mental Health Problems Requiring In-Patient Hospitalization - Especially with arrest history for any offenses prior to hospitalization.

12. **History of Violence** - Towards self and others, actual physical force used to injure, harm, or damage. This element is the most significant in assessing individuals for potential dangerousness.

13. Odd/Bizarre Beliefs - Superstitious, magical thinking, religiosity, sexuality, violent fantasies (especially when violence is eroticized), delusions.

14. Physical Problems - Congenital defects, severe acne, scars, stuttering, any of which contribute to poor self-image, lack of self-esteem, and isolation. History of head trauma, brain damage/neurological problems.

15. Preoccupation With Violence Themes - Movies, books, TV, newspaper articles, magazines (detective), music, weapons collections, guns, knives, implements of torture, S & M, Nazi paraphernalia.

16. Pathological Triad/School Problems - Fire-setting, enuresis, cruelty to animals, fighting, truancy, temper tantrums, inability to get along with others, ejection of authority.
Alan C. Brantley, Traits and Characteristics of Violent Offenders, FBI Academy.

Labels: , , , , , ,

shared by Barbara at 12:32 AM 4 comments


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Narcissistic Mothers' Characteristics

1. Everything she does is deniable.
There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to "help" you.

She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”)

As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!"). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)

2. She violates your boundaries.
You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there.

She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

3. She favoritizes.
Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat.
The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.

4. She undermines.
Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates.
She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.”

She will deliver slams in a sidelong way - for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything f1or her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else - something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t - the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh hunh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said.

6. She makes you look crazy.
If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” or that you "made it all up" (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten.

This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you and others outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative.
You’re oversensitive.
You’re imagining things.
You’re hysterical.
You’re completely unreasonable.
You’re over-reacting, like you always do.
She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational.
She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood.
She didn’t do anything.
She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her.
You’ve hurt her terribly.
She thinks you may need psychotherapy.
She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do.
You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

7. She’s envious.
Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count.
Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her - she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself and to undermine your credibility.

The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk to anyone about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is.

To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win.

On the rare occasions she is forced to acknowledge some bad behavior, she will couch the admission deniably. She “guesses” that “maybe” she “might have” done something wrong. The wrongdoing is always heavily spun and trimmed to make it sound better. The words “I guess,” “maybe,” and “might have” are in and of themselves lies because she knows exactly what she did - no guessing, no might haves, no maybes.

9. She has to be the center of attention all the time.
This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you had to do it on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, fetching and carrying for her while she made up to herself for the menial work she had to do as your mother by glorying in your attentions.

A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.

Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age.)

10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain.
This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried, She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise that. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain.

A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association and trying to distress her listeners, as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.

11. She’s selfish and willful.
She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”

One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.

12. She’s self-absorbed. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs.
Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance ("It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…/You aren't as sick as I am").

13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism.
If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse.

14. She terrorized. For all abusers, fear is a powerful means of control of the victim, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you.
Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. The only alternative is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.

Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal havoc and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure.
You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” (Someone asked her if she was pregnant. She isn’t).
You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.)
She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You said the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago).
The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “he has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” (She has to pay for a filling and she’s furious at having to spend money on you.)

Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without raising a hand.

15. She’s infantile and petty.
Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. These babyish complaints and responses may sound laughable, but the narcissist is dead serious about them. When you were a child, if you ask her to stop some bad behavior, she would justify it by pointing out something that you did that she feels is comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child is justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.

16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands.
She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.

17. She “parentifies.”
She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able, leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could (i.e. covert incest). She denied you medical care, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up for herself. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?” You worked three jobs to pay for that cheap college and when you finally got mononucleosis she chirped at you that she was “so happy you could take care of yourself.”

She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her.

18. She’s exploitative.
She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She took you as a dependent on her income taxes so you couldn’t file independently without exposing her to criminal penalties. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.

Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.

19. She projects.
This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to.

An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true.

However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you’ll talk about it when you’ve calmed down and are no longer hysterical.

You aren’t hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” - probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.

20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything.
Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.

21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings.
She’ll occasionally slip and say something jaw-droppingly callous because of this lack of empathy. It isn’t that she doesn’t care at all about other people’s feelings, though she doesn’t. It would simply never occur to her to think about their feelings.

An absence of empathy is the defining trait of a narcissist and underlies most of the other traits I have described. Unlike psychopaths, narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal.
She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital.
She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia.
She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours.

22. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened.
Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty.
Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are.
Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand - after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love.
She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing.
She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.

Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is:
1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable.
2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties.
3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way.
4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault.
5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours.
6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down.
7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.

23. She destroys your relationships.
Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.

The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy - the most corrosive emotions - to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.

The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her childrens’ relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the other children don’t see her unfairness and they excuse her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.

Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it.

The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.

24. As a last resort she goes pathetic.
When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you.

As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.


FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DAUGHTERS OF NARCISSISTIC MOTHERS: DoNM FREEDOM! (closed group - you must apply to join via Facebook and be 100% No Contact)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

shared by Barbara at 12:48 AM 98 comments