Saturday, October 23, 2010

Abuse Effects the Entire Family

It is often times as traumatic for the family of an abuse victim to watch what is going on with their loved one as it is for the person going through the abuse.  Although we clearly love and are concerned about our family member, one of the most terrible feelings is the lack of control that family members feel to help the person break free from the abuse they are experiencing.  Most of the time, individuals outside the perimeter of an abusive relationship can see much more clearly what is happening to their family member, but the frustration is in getting that family member to see the truth of what is happening and take action to stop the abuse.

It is very difficult for a person who has little true self esteem and even less identity for themselves to stand up and do what it takes to leave an abuser. Often the family does not understand the dynamics that keep the victim bound.  Many times the victim is in the situation because they don't like to see other people in pain.  That fact alone will allow them to be manipulated by the abuser simply because the abuser is in pain all the time.  

Family members tend to lose sight of the fact that even if the relationship is abusive, there is still attachment there - albeit negative attachment.  The attachment and bonding between human beings is quite strong, however the desire not to be alone can be much stronger so negative attachment will suffice.  Therefore, an abuse victim will need support from any and all places it can be found, whether that be family or friends.  That is why it is so important not to allow the abuser to sever relationships with the victim.  Sometimes that alone is a difficult task because those relationships can be a threat to the abuser who will be working to isolate and control the victim.  Even if it is difficult and frustrating, it is important for friends and family to keep lines of communication open with the victim; it will be needed should the decision to leave ever becomes an option.

Bessel Van der Kolk, a research scientist who has written much about trauma and abuse has stated that as long as people can imagine having some control over what is happening to them, they can keep their wits about them.  That idea of control keeps hope alive so the abuse victim needs to be continually fed with choices, with options, with the truth that there is a network of people who will support them once the decision to get out is made.  A family can provide that support; however they need to be a strong, united front for the person they are trying to protect.   He has also stated that one of the coping strategies for victims is to dissociate, which can look like supreme denial or compartmentalism of thought and once they engage in that behavior, they become incapable of goal directed action.  

The abuse victim has many considerations to think about in order to make a decision to leave.  Finances, childcare, educational pursuits, and often getting a job with skills that are outdated or under used can be major obstacles in the planning of a transition out of an abusive relationship.  Support from family and friends to help the victim see that there are options can be invaluable as to whether the victim stays or leaves.  More often than not she will not be able to see past her husband either forbidding her to move out of a place of control or putting up obstacles such as not taking care of the children while she is work to harassing her by phone at her job or showing up and making a scene so that she eventually loses her position.  

Introduce children into the mix and things become very challenging because another generation is experiencing the modeling of abusive behaviors.  The true effects of abuse and trauma on children is a place of heavy denial for mothers who are in these relationships.  Some of the myths they believe are that if they don't fight in front of the kids, the kids aren't affected.  Another myth is that even though the husband may be abusive to the wife, he is still a good father.  This particular myth is untrue simply because abuse against a primary caregiver of the child by the other caregiver is immensely traumatizing.  Unless the husband is treating his wife with respect and honor, he cannot be a good father to his children.

Grandparents, parents, sibling and friends can have a better perspective of what is happening within an abusive relationship than the victim inside.  However, with that said, the victim has a better barometer of how much danger she is in at any moment in time.  It has been proven that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship, especially a physically abusive relationship, is when she leaves.  That is why she needs a very strong support network she can count on, not only at that time but in the weeks and months after she leaves because it has been proven that abuse does not end after the marriage ends.  There can be stalking, manipulation and attempts to control through other means, especially the children.  

Family and friends, over time lose hope and get frustrated with the abuse victim who continually says she wants change but puts no effort to effect that change.  Statistics show that a woman will leave at least 7 times before she leaves for good but often families lose hope well before that.  When that happens, the victim loses the sense of her support network which makes it even more difficult to leave.  

Family members can fall under the control of the abuser just as much as the victim has simply because they realize that whatever they do to support their loved one is met with abusive action against her by the abuser.  They soon stop their efforts because they do not want to be the ones responsible for hurting their loved one.  Although they are not the ones directly inflicting the abuse, they feel powerless against the abuser who is.  If the family will step out and make use of the resources available, such as local women's centers or Domestic Violence organizations, they can continue to support their loved one in indirect ways.  If the children are being abuse, there are more avenues open to family members to use law enforcement and child protective services to intervene; however the family must be willing to do so and make the consequences stick.

Abusers get away with their actions because their victims do not enforce consequences that are available to them.  Consequences, however distasteful, may serve to turn around an abuser's life and instill a desire for healing and change.  That desire must come from within the heart of the abuser in order for change to one can do it for them.  

In closing, if there is any question, it is NEVER appropriate for the abuser to request help from the victim.  Abusers are adults and are very capable of finding help for themselves.  Allowing them to do so helps to empower them and puts the responsibility for their healing in their hands, rather than piling it on the back of the one they have abused.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Abuse of Husbands in a Marriage

First, I'd like to apologize for not posting in a timely manner, but life sometimes gets in the way and it certainly has for me in the last couple weeks.  Thank you for your patience!
Although most domestic violence is perpetrated from male to female, I try to bring forward the understanding that abuse can go both ways. I recently had a question come to me from a man who is experiencing this kind of situation in his relationship and doesn't know what to do. Please read the following with an understanding heart:
"My wife completely denies that she has been abusive in any way but I feel certain she has been to both me and my child, My wife has screamed out several times one night that my daughter's mother was a whore and slut with my daughter in the next room, talk's to her like a dog and tells her speak child speak! grabs her by both arms and bends over and puts her face in my childs face and yells at her with her teeth clinched. as for me she has gotten angry with me and slapped me in the chest 5 or 6 times and said that was not abuse, I have a heart condition, and on several occasions started screaming at my with me literally begging her to stop and that i was afraid she would give me a heart attack and i would did. still she said this is not abuse. would call me names but say it is not verbal abuse. she would say i was economically abusive because I would ask her if she has paid her credit card bills, but not acknowledge the fact that the reason I would ask is because over four years she ran up thousands of dollars, that I didn't know about, and not paying the bills on time,resulting in 29.9% rates and effecting our credit.fallowed me around and yelling when I would try to walk away from an argument, stand in front of or hang on to my truck if I tried to drive away to avoid an argument. went to all of my family over a four year period and played the victim and trashed me, but would not tell them the things she has done to me. even went to my ex-wife and told her about the argument we had about her calling my ex-wife a whore and slut with my child in house, but did not tell her the whore and slut part. I feel betrayed by my wife as well, she was calling and meeting for coffee and lunch her ex-boyfriend for two years, with out my knowledge, she said she did nothing wrong. we are currently separated, and I found out that the day after she left, she started talking to a man she meet at the bar she works at. when I asked her about that she said he is just a friend, I find that unbelievable. She blames the separation on me and only says she has been a good wife and mother, and will not admit to any wrong doing. am I crazy or am I the only person that can see a problem with her behavior."

There is definitely something wrong with any type of behavior that includes physical and verbal abuse.  I'm not sure that there was a question here beyond wanting my opinion, but I would advise anyone to contact child protective services if they believe that their child is being abused.  Parents are responsible for the safety of their children and if you witness or see evidence that the child is being traumatized, it would be in their best interest to either contact an attorney for good legal advice or CPS.  Any counselor, doctor, nurse, teacher or social worker who becomes aware of this situation is a mandatory reporter, which means they will report abuse if it is suspected.

Also, just for informational purposes, individuals dealing with this kind of thing might visit a website located at and read the information that is presented there.  Only individuals going through this will be able to determine if any of what is there fits their situation, but it may be of some help to know there may be answers beyond simply thinking there is bad behavior here.  Although there may be other answers for behavior like this, many people do not know about or understand Borderline Personality Disorder so it bears checking it out.  Men who live with women who are out of control find themselves in a very difficult situation.  First, they don't often look for help and when they do, they find most of the help directed towards females so I was very proud of this man for stepping forward and trying to find some help.

This individual mentioned that his wife works in a bar but did not indicate if there was any problems with alcohol.  Alcohol and withdrawal from it can present in intense anger, anxiety and severe mood swings.  If there is alcohol abuse or even dependence, there are options available to help addicts get their lives under control if they are amenable to the help.