July 6, 2013 _ If there is one thing I could do to help victims of domestic abuse, of course it would be to pull them away from the abuse … but, that really wouldn’t prevent further abuse, believe it or not.
Abuse is in the control of the abuser, not the victim or anyone else. But, I have learned from my own experience and others’ that abusers abuse because they can get away with it.
Studies show that most abusers are interested in maintaining control and power over someone for whatever reason that makes sense to them …. usually related to the fears created by a twisted sort of low self-esteem/sense of entitlement. Abusers believe that they are entitled to power all the time, but they suspect that they don’t have power because of some short-coming in their actions. Therefore, they are motivated to get power at any cost, including the sinking to moral and ethical lows such as abuse.
They may know that abuse is “wrong” in the eyes of society, but that conflicts with their deep feeling that they can do anything to gain the upper hand in a relationship and should. So, they only physically abuse those who won’t expose it or who will tolerate it. If an abuser hit their boss, they would not get the upper hand in that relationship. They’d get fired and they know that. If he hits his wife, she is not likely to expose it, because she has a vested interest in maintaining the relationship, especially if there are kids or financial dependency.
Abusers are so driven to maintain power and control over others, that they have many, many tricks to do so. Physical abuse is just one way.
It is so important that we understand abusers in our society because in doing so, we have the best chance of stopping it. Our society has the wrong picture in its head about who are abusers. We seem to think that abusers stand out, are poor, are uneducated, are mean and unhappy all the time, and don’t know that abuse is wrong.
But, the facts don’t support that. Most of the people in my life were shocked beyond belief to learn that my ex-husband was abusing me. He is a successfully, nationally known sports writer who is married, pays (mostly) his child support, is on television, radio, knows famous people and can be charming.
He is like that in public. In private, he is shallow, detached, lacks empathy, is self-centered and self-serving, closed and arrogant on his best days. On his worse, he is so deeply offended that his opinions, desires, wishes are not being completely honored that he will yell, hit, insult, and hate his family member.
This is so horrible and confusing for anyone who wants the intimacy of a family relationship. Family members of an abuser struggle with this behavior. We want something difference from him. Me and my children didn’t want to throw away our husband and father. We just didn’t want to be abused.
Abusers are everywhere and we all just keep trying to keep them in the box where we had them. As a wife, I didn’t want a divorce. I wanted a happy family and couple life … so despite the in-my-face evidence that my husband didn’t want the same thing, I kept forcing the facts into compartments that allowed for my fantasy. I wanted a happy marriage with the father of my children … so I had to find a way to make this work with my abuser. I tried years of therapy, relationship books, couples seminars, anger management, abusers intervention group, and on and on…. Until finally, I realized my fate. I wasn’t going to have a happy marriage with the father of my children and every day I pretended that, I was a day closer to death.
My abuser looked normal to everyone, albeit a bit opinionated. My friends and even some of my family want a fantasy too. They want to be free of conflict. Domestic abuse doesn’t allow for that. Holding an abuser accountable, means that you must force yourself out of the fantasy of peacefully co-existing with this person.
My hope is that abuser will find it harder and harder to get away with abusing. That when an abuser is exposed, that we shun him, charge him, offer painful consequences, call him out and hold him and him alone responsible. Only then, will it stop. Today, unfortunately, an abuser can talk his way out of that responsibility and a lot of people buy it.
My ex-husband’s wife bought his story that he only hit me because I was such a bitch that he was driven to hit me and he is so ashamed. She has a vested interested in him being correct. My children want their dad to be great, so they try to sort through the pain of the truth. It pains me to watch it. Our friends who know want to believe that the person they know who is charming and fun and a great dad and husband, only abused because of some dynamic problem that brought out uncharacteristic behavior.
And most people still believe that domestic abuser are crazed monsters who looks and sounds the part. Hollywood paints the picture of this and we believe it. What a disservice to the victims of real domestic abuse.