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Having recently received an unwanted and unacceptable e-mail, I decided to write this article to provide the reader with not only a riveting read but also a provocative topic that tries to offer real solutions to problems of violence in relationships, in the shape of a concise guide that transcends traditional approaches to real or perceived danger.
Right now, as you read these words, at least one woman near you is being beaten – and now another. Within the space of a few seconds women in every corner of the world are being beaten by either their boyfriends or husbands. Unlike some violence, spousal abuse is a crime that can be avoided if we act on accurate predictions of danger.
Understanding how people evaluate personal risk may help us better understand why so many women in danger stay with their violent partners. Beaten women have been beaten so much that their fear mechanism is dulled to the point that they take in stride risks that others would consider unacceptable. The relationship between violence and death is not so apparent to them. Being struck and forced not to resist is a particularly damaging form of abuse because it trains the central instinct to protect the self, out of the victim rendering them vulnerable to further abuse. To over-ride any care for the self, a woman must begin to believe that she is not worth protecting.
Being beaten by someone we love creates a conflict between two opposing instincts. The instinct to stay and the instinct to flee. Many batterers control the money, allowing little access to financial information and book accounts. The batterer may start out as a benevolent control freak at the beginning of the relationship and then soon turns into a malevolent control freak, issuing unpredictable punishment and rewards for minor transgressions that challenge his addiction to control, social insecurities and shaky personal identity.
Children who do not learn to expect and accept love in normal, healthy ways become adults who find other ways to get it. Controlling may work for a while, even a long while, but then it begins not to work, and so he escalates his behaviour accordingly to maintain his violent grip. He will do anything to stay in control, but his girlfriend/ ex-wife is chang ing and that causes him to suffer. Men in this position need Counselling and Therapy since it is a choice on their part to continue using violence as a means of controlling others.
Just as there are physical abusers who will hurt every partner so there are serial victims – women who will select more than one violent man to share their life. Social Psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, Erich Fromm and Sigmund Freud to name just a few, viewed violence as the result of an inability to communicate personal needs effectively within reasonable boundaries. Spousal abuse is committed by people who are frequently described as; kind, caring, sweet, charming etc. The men described so, were all of these things before and during the selection mating process and often still are – between violent battering incidents.
Could these women have seen ‘warning signs’ if they had known what to look for? Falling in love requires to some degree – a denial to see faults, frankly to ‘overlook’ danger signs. In a culture that glorifies and sugar coats romance, propelling people to get married in spite of many reasons not to, the issue of selection and choice brings to attention the valuable work of Psychologist Nathaniel Branden who believes ‘luck’ has very little to do with choice of partner.The common characteristic of a woman who continues to select against her better judgement, violent men, is the woman herself. Once she understands the reasons for her choice of partner and can change her bad choices to better choices, she can then free herself from violent relationships.
So what can a woman who is being beaten do? Seek and apply strategies that make you unavailable to your partner. Take yourself away if possible and continue to remain unavailable regardless of the inconvenience it causes you. It is wiser to get away safely than trying to change the abusing partner or engaging in an emotional war, even if the police and courts are on your side. As with other aspects of safety, the police cannot fix violent relationships.
Unwanted pursuit by ex-boyfriends/husbands may escalate their behaviour to include such things as persistent phone calls and late night text messages, showing up uninvited, stalking and enlisting/manipulating friends and family to force contact. Though he would rather get back into her life, he will accept being just a friend until he can exert his mind control again and reduce her to victim status.
The taught rule in ‘Getting rid of Mr. Wrong’ is to stop all contact. He should be explicitly rejected and no contact continued on his terms. Much depends on how much emotional investment has been made by the battering partner. If he has been beating for years and ignored warnings and interventions, then a restraining order may not be of much help, especially if he has been issuing threats and other sinister behaviour.
Because victims are understandably frustrated and angry, they may look to a court order to do any of the following things; destroy, expose, threaten, change and humiliate the violent partner. Victims can often list warning signs about men who go on to become a problem. One such victim of violence who I shall call Rita shares this story:
I dated this guy called Jason. I met him at a party of a friend of mine, and he must have asked someone there for my phone number (researching the victim). Before I even got home, he’d left me five messages (overly invested) I told him I didn’t want to go out with him, but he was so persistent about it that I really didn’t have any choice. (Men who cannot let go choose women who cannot say no). In the beginning, it was flattering, he was super attentive, knowing what I wanted. I was amazed he remembered every word I ever said (hyper attentiveness). It made me feel special to start with and then very uncomfortable (victim intuitively feels uncomfortable). He talked about serious things like children and living together early on (whirlwind pace) and of course he monitored my every movement and didn’t like me seeing my friends (isolating her from friends).
The above is all done strategically with a clear agenda by the abusive partner. He is preparing his victim and making sure that she becomes completely dependent on him for her happiness.
Amazingly, classical stalking behaviour and the characteristics of violent partners share striking similarities. The predictability of pre-attack behaviours has been confirmed in Psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz’s work and his violence inventory, listed below:-
1. Displayed some mental disorder
2. Researched the victim or victim
3. Created a diary, journal or record
4. Obtained a weapon
5. Displayed an exaggerated idea of self (grandiosity)
6. Exhibited random travel
7. Identifies with controlling historical characters
8. Made repeated inappropriate approaches
When it comes to survival signals, it is important that we take note of our intuitions and not turn a blind to our feelings – they might just save us from the mistake of finding Mr Wrong.
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About the Author: Shahnaz is a trained Psychotherapist & Trainer who made her first media appearance in 1997 when she was invited by the Editor of the then cutting edge psychotherapy magazine’ Dialogue’ to submit an article dealing with health and emotional intelligence. She was at the time studying on Harley St under the eminent Clinical Psychologist Prof. Petruska Clarkson. Since then she has received acclaim as a regular professional guest on Yorkshire’s award winning Sunrise Radio, successfully interpreting dreams live on air to a captivating audience of over 60,000 listeners. Shahnaz writes as a Health, Beauty and Relationships Features Writer for City Connect as well as offering individual life coaching support to both individuals and companies. She can be contacted on e-mail: Shahnaz393@yahoo.co.uk