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athgarvan

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Physical abuse in marriage appears to be on the rise. Isn't it strange that the more we hear about equality between the sexes, open complaints of domestic abuse are on the increase? For the most part, the physical abuse and control is by the husband.

But not all abuse is physical, or involves beatings or explicit violence. There is a kind of abuse that is much more common, more insidious, more difficult to prove, and is usually at the foundation of other kinds of abuse: psychological abuse.

Psychological abuse is a destructive behaviour by which one of the couple (and it need not be the man) controls the more vulnerable one. One is stronger than the other and plays a more dominant role, while the weaker one gradually loses his/her sense of freedom. The relationship is not equal. There is neither equality nor respect for the integrity of the other. One of the two tries to control the other, to restrain his/her freedom, to make him/her submit. The other, out of fear or weakness, ends up in a suffocating and destructive relationship. And, of course, psychological abuse can lead to physical abuse.

Comments

I like that you note "APPEARS to be on the rise." Part of what is happening here is related to reporting, not incidence. Incidence means that more is actually happening. Reporting means that more that is happening is being reported to authorities.

As women have more options because they have more opportunity, there is also a concurrent understanding that a woman CAN make it on her own (at least, more easily than before, when there was more serious limitations in society), so some women who might have felt they had no choice but to put up with physical abuse because they and children would have no way in the world now feel like they can leave.

Emotional abuse often not only goes along with physical abuse, but can be the predecessor, setting a woman up to feel sufficiently worthless and hopeless that she doesn't feel strong enough to make it on her own and/or when the abuser tells her that she "brought it on herself" she believes it - and then in the honeymoon phase where the abuser is contrite and begs forgiveness it feels wonderful and perhaps like more than she deserves.

You are right that emotional and psychological abuse are more about control. It isn't inherently about a power imbalance in that power imbalance does not inherently lead to these problems (thank heavens). Not all people with more power in a dyad will become abusive. But for people who have fragile egos and senses of self, when their exaggerated feelings of self-importance are threatened they will do what they feel they need to do to reset things to the 'proper' balance.
How true. Psychological abuse can begin even at the 'courting' stage and can and should be detected from the start. Much of the later problems would then be avoided.
As someone who had a 17 year marriage with a psychological abuser, I can testify that it's horrible. (there were minor amounts of physical abuse, but the psychological was constant). You get to the point where you can't' trust your own judgement, because nothing makes sense. The rules change constantly. What was okay to do or say yesterday is no longer okay today. There is no balance, no resting point. It's a life of constantly worrying what will come next. It took therapy and years to get over it- and I still sometimes find myself reacting with those old habits. I have to tell myself that, no, Tim doesn't do that, and he means what he says with no ulterior meaning behind it. By the time I escaped, I was in such poor mental and physical health I was totally okay with just dying.
I can appreciate what you had to go through. I have been helping a woman who had the courage to take her six children and go it alone. It was financially extremely difficult not to mention emotionally.