Walking on Eggshells…Living With Abuse

The media’s coverage about the Rihanna and Chris Brown’s awards night argument and the more recent rumors of domestic violence surrounding the Tiger and Elin Woods “car accident” catapulted the subject of domestic violence onto our television screens.  And, in doing so might have inadvertently helped to further educate the public….somewhat.  In spite of the horrific murders that revealed a history of domestic violence in the OJ Simpson case,  public opinion naively harbors a simple notion that abuse is physical and it’s a man beating up on a woman. 

On the contrary.  In my practice I have represented both male and female victims.  There seem to be more women as victims than men because men are less likely to report abuse or even view themselves as victims. 

All forms of domestic abuse have one purpose: to gain and maintain total power and control over the victim.  The tactic used by an abuser to dominate their partner is the form of the abuse and it’s not limited to physical abuse. The tactics employed to gain and maintain the control go beyond physical and thus are  far more insidious.  Humiliation involving verbal denigration of the partner in private and public; isolation from work, friends and family; threats to take custody if the partner attempts to leave; financial dependence on the abuser; intimidation by making the partner afraid by using looks, actions or destroying property; making or carrying out threats in retribution; and minimizing by making light of the abuse;  denying or shifting responsibility for the behavior.  Because there is no physical sign like a bruise, these tactics are subtle and are viral until the abnormal becomes the norm.  Victims describe living this way as “walking on eggshells”.

Too often during a divorce the abuser has another arrow in his or her tactics quiver.  The court system.  There an abuser has a platform to voice his or her indignation.  There the abuser portrays him or herself as the true victim.  Accusations roll off the tongue and the victim looks like a deer caught in the headlights.  Or worse, the victim, who is most likely suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, may seem hysterical and angry, ie: crazy.

Fortunately, our judiciary is well-educated about the psychological nuances of domestic violence.  The abuser’s passion play won’t result in a standing ovation.  Instead, it is viewed for what it is, an act.  I encourage individuals to change the way they are used to relating to their abuser.  That, and educating themselves by attending personal empowerment programs, getting counseling and reading books so they will begin to understand what has happened to them.  Recovery takes time, at least a year with those efforts.

Finally and most importantly I tell my clients that abuser is going to do what he or she is going to do regardless of the victim’s response or actions so they must stand up for themselves from the outset in court.  That step is their first on the road to recovery.  Victims of abuse are the strongest individuals I know because of their ability to survive.

As Lance Armstrong says, “live strong”.  I encourage you, be courageous. 

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 1:53 am  Comments (1)  
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