Friday, May 30, 2014

Behind Abusive Mentality (Part 6): Abusers and Allies

Excerpts taken from Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.
Besides, he feels that he deserves allies, because he considers himself the victim. 
You may wonder why, if abusive men feel so justified in their actions, they distort their stories so much when seeking support. First, an abuser doesn’t want to have to explain his worst behaviors—his outright cruelty, for example, or his violence—to people who might find those acts distasteful, and he may not feel confident that his justifications will be accepted. Second, he may carry some guilt or shame about his worst acts, as most abusers do; his desire to escape those feelings is part of why he looks for validation from other people, which relieves any nagging selfdoubt. He considers his guilt feelings a weakness to be overcome. And, last, he may lie because he has convinced himself of his own distortions.
But whether or not he is telling the truth is almost beside the point; he is playing to the societal value, still widely held, that a man’s abuse toward a woman is significantly less serious if she has behaved rudely herself. 
What her family and friends may not know is that when an abused woman refuses to “look at her part” in the abuse, she has actually taken a powerful step out of self-blame and toward emotional recovery. She doesn’t have any responsibility for his actions. Anyone who tries to get her to share responsibility is adopting the abuser’s perspective.
Despite the challenges, many, many friends and relatives of abused women stay by them. Their presence is critical, for it is the level of loyalty, respect, patience, and support that an abused woman receives from her own friends and family that largely determines her ability to recover from abuse and stay free.
I’ve had couples counselors say to me, for example: “He just isn’t the type to be abusive; he’s so pleasant and insightful, and she’s so angry.” Women speak to me with shocked voices of betrayal as they tell me how their couples therapist, or the abuser’s individual therapist, or a therapist for one of their children, has become a vocal advocate for him and a harsh and superior critic of her.
It is not possible to be truly balanced in one’s views of an abuser and an abused woman. As Dr. Judith Herman explains eloquently in her masterwork Trauma and Recovery, “neutrality” actually serves the interests of the perpetrator much more than those of the victim and so is not neutral. Although an abuser prefers to have you wholeheartedly on his side, he will settle contentedly for your decision to take a middle stance. To him, that means you see the couple’s problems as partly her fault and partly his fault,
which means it isn’t abuse.
I was speaking with a person one day who was describing the abusive relationship of a man and woman, both of whom were friends of hers. “They each want me to side with them,” she explained to me, “but I refuse to take sides. They have to work out their own dynamics. I have let both of them know that I’m there for them. If I openly supported her, he would just dig his heels in harder.” She added, “People need to avoid the temptation to choose up teams” in a tone that indicated that she considered herself to be of superior maturity because of her neutrality.
In reality, to remain neutral is to collude with the abusive man, whether or not that is your goal. If you are aware of chronic or severe mistreatment and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place. Abusers interpret silence as approval, or at least as forgiveness. To abused women, meanwhile, the silence means that no one will help—just what her partner wants her to believe. Anyone who chooses to quietly look the other way therefore unwittingly becomes the abuser’s ally.
Breaking the silence does not necessarily mean criticizing or confronting the abuser regarding his behavior. It certainly doesn’t mean going to him with anything you have learned from her, because the abuser will retaliate against her for talking about his behavior to other people. It does mean telling the abused woman privately that you don’t like the way he is treating her and that she doesn’t deserve it, no matter what she has done.
Colluding with abuse abandons the abused woman and her children, and ultimately abandons the abuser as well, since it keeps him from ever dealing with his problem. If we can erode the ability of abusers to gain allies, they will stand alone, and alone they are easier to stop.
It often falls to the abused woman herself, unfortunately, to try to educate the people around her whose help and support she needs, so that they will understand the dynamics of abuse and stop supporting the abusive man. Much of why an abuser is so able to recruit allies, besides his own manipulativeness and charm, is his skill in playing on people’s ignorance and misconceptions and often on their negative attitudes toward women. As difficult as it is to take on, you will often find yourself having to be your own best advocate, arguing forcefully against the range of ways in which your society’s values may buy into the abusive man’s outlook, in order to gain the kind of strong backing that you deserve from all those around you.
Abusers and the Legal System
Abusers have also learned to rush to the court for restraining orders before their partners get a chance to do so and sometimes scoop up custody of their children in the process. It would be difficult to find anyone more self-satisfied than the man who repeatedly assaults his partner verbally or physically and then has the pleasure of handing her a court order that bars her from the residence. And of course the shock to the woman of discovering that the court has kicked her when she was already down can propel her several more yards in the direction of resignation and bitterness. 

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