Monday, October 24, 2016

Defining Abuse

"We define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone."
-the U.S. Department of Justice

First of all, one must have a good grasp of what abuse is. It is easy to not do any thinking around abuse. It is black-and-white and easy to grasp that a woman who is consistently beaten and hit is being abused. Only men who lack basic intelligence will really believe it is ok to do that in front of people, so our culture's narrative about the abusive man as "random animal" is only a tiny snippet of what abuse is. Even then, people, as bystanders, have varying reactions to this animalized version of a man, not all of them supportive of the abused.
I say man because research supports that it is primarily men who abuse.
Psychological and emotional abuse includes passive aggression and stonewalling.
Abuse at its core is cruelty, and is characterized by an unwillingness for the perpetrator to stop his cruelty, and to twist the story so his victim is blamed, absolving him of any personal responsibility. Abuse is also people who support this cruelty and allow it to flourish, and even enjoy making someone else suffer. Abuse has a retaliatory, angry, attacking, entitled nature.
Abuse goes so much deeper than "man as animal". To challenge our notions of abuse means we really need to dig deeper. Yes, a man who batters is bad, very bad. But there is a spirit that underlies a batterer's thinking. There is, in him, an extreme anger and entitlement to take what he believes is his. There is a war he creates in his head that he enacts on victims, a war he most likely does not understand and is not willing to stop.
In this war of his own creation, he takes away another's rights. He takes away their rights to have dignity, to have influence, to have personal freedom, and to have agency.
It is completely possible, and more widespread, to take away those rights without even lifting a finger. There are many, many ways to be a civilized barbarian. You need look no further than our own political arena. Those same kinds of barbarianism under the guise of civility are worked out in racism, sexism, and abusive marriages. Another's rights are taken away through economic, psychological, sexual, and physical circumstances. Abuse is power-over another. Winning for these civilized barbarians is taking power over another human being's life, about squashing their wishes and desires for their life, and includes withholding relationship and refusing to take responsibility. All abuse is control. It's a compulsion and entitlement to control another person's rights by taking them away. The entitled Lord Abuser giveth and taketh away.
I ask you, dear reader, to consider all the permutations of setting up a system of control. Being hit and/or raped are the rarest and at the top of an imagined triangle holding such permutations. But underneath, there are many, many forms of abuse that are more subtle and just as damaging, if not more, than more physical types of abuse.
Those more subtle,  sugar-coated and "civilized" forms of abuse, such as passive-aggression and stonewalling, form the bedrock for truly heinous acts of offense toward another human being.
Abuse is not the same as narcissistic injury, and this muddies the waters. Abusers are fragile and anything provokes their ire towards a target. They are like walking through a landmine, and if you walk on an ego bomb, watch out. You have abused them to no end. Do not confuse an abuser who's victim blaming and whose narcissistic injury was triggered,  with a REAL abused person.
Financial abuse is one. Controlling finances in any way, during a marriage and post-divorce, is financial abuse. Shaming a woman out of building credit. Selfishly hoarding resources. Everything on this list:
Child support as a form of abuse I will speak of in its own blog post. Many have suggested that the inability to consider your child's life as a whole and provide for their needs everywhere they are is child abuse. Refusing to work or working less to get out of child support is the same as deliberately making life hard for your kids, and that's abusive. Using your family's wealth and resources and family court to bully your ex while withholding resources from  your children is abusive to your children and your ex.
That one is a set up that goes like this: Financially cripple your enemy (in this case, a co-parent, (which in and of itself is unfathomable) through making a child support agreement and then relentlessly pursue breaking it through the courts, making sure to run up big expenses for your co-parent while also withholding financial support, designed for the benefit of your children, that you agreed to. Make sure your agreement is obliterated so you never have to uphold it. Then, hit your enemy with such large and legal requests for money she's sure to go deeper into poverty. Also, to be abusive to a wider audience, give not one thought as to how this affects your kids. Make sure you play the poor card, which is an outright lie,  as often as possible so it looks like your "enemy" is the bad guy. Make sure to turn your co-parent into an enemy as often as possible and twist it in your mind that this is somehow "good parenting" instead of setting an example of abuse.
Emotional abuse is a big one. Here are some resources for reading more:
On Dr. Irene's list of controlling behaviors, she tells the man to walk and not run to get help. Now, she is a psychologist and perhaps she has had the experience of men getting help but it is most often the case that an abuser will not get help. In fact, inability to receive input about behavior and inability to change harmful behavior is a hallmark of an abuser.
The second link is from a book which is vital to healing from domestic abuse, "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft. Lundy worked with batterers for 15 years in groups and therapy designed to stop their abusing. He holds out much less hope for these men, especially "Mr. Right" and the "Demand Man" because those two types are the most entitled and cannot get past being challenged on their attitudes. They cannot grow as human beings or consider the cost of their behavior to others.
The Girl God has a book that is wonderful for personal growth and has resources for dealing with abuse in the back:
I will also say, tread carefully if you are on the outside making judgements. In a power-over situation, where one has unfairly and consistently usurped another's rights, when said targets start demanding their rights back, it can look like they are the abuser because that's the abuser's way-blame someone else. Actions put out to gain equality in the relationship are not abusive. Blacks who sat in the white sections of the buses were not being abusive, although there are some that framed it that way. Standing up for yourself and calling out abuse is not abusive. In fact, it is one of the kindest things you can do because it gives the other person the opportunity to truly pause and reflect on their behavior and do better. Their choice to stop their abusive attitudes and behavior then is up to them and becomes very much a conscious choice once the consequences of their behavior are brought to light.
And that's a sticky subject. Legally, socially, and personally, a person who is engaged in economic, psychological, emotional, and even sexual abuse has the right to abuse and often goes on their way with no consequences.
Which is why I'm speaking up and writing about this. Not that many people read this blog, but if I have given anyone pause to think, then that is a good thing. We all need to raise consciousness and raise the bar. We need to stop taking the easy way out and start really thinking through these issues. We need to stop making it easy for the truly dangerous abusers by cutting down the constant low-level bullies. Bystanders have an incredible effect.
The Duluth Model wheels are excellent and include post-divorce control:
Passive aggression is psychological and emotional abuse:
Stonewalling is psychological and emotional abuse:

*update* remember, an abuser whose narcissistic injury is triggered is going to see you as the abuser. A recent example of this is Donald Trump's tweets after Pence attended Hamilton.

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