Archive of ‘Trauma’ category

Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 4

If you have watched the news lately in Travis County, it was reported that a woman was killed by her boyfriend earlier this week, and that over the weekend a teen male held a shotgun to the neck of his girlfriend and threatened to kill her if she tried to break up with him again. It is clear that the epidemic of domestic violence is still on the rise, and with that truth I bring you the final part of my blog pertaining to myths about domestic violence. Stay tuned for future blogs on the subject – the discussion will not stop as long as the problem persists!

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Myth #12: He is afraid of intimacy and abandonment.

Jealousy and possessiveness are common traits of abusive men, and their destructive and coercive behaviors often escalate when their partners attempt to break up with them. This supports the statistic that the victim is 75% more likely to be seriously injured or killed after trying to leave or just after leaving or ending the relationship.

Myth #13: He hates women.

Many believe that abusive men are abusive toward women because they have had largely negative experiences with women in the past, such as having an abusive or overbearing mother. The truth is most abusers don’t hate women – the issue is they do not respect women. Their attitudes toward women fall on a spectrum from being able to interact fairly well with most women (as long as they are not intimately involved with them) to being staunch misogynists who treat most women they come across with superiority and contempt. These attitudes of disrespect tend to come from their culture of values and conditioning, rather than previous negative experiences with women. Research has actually shown that men with abusive mothers do not tend to develop negative attitudes towards women, but men with abusive fathers do – the disrespect shown by abusive men toward their female partners and their daughters is often absorbed and mimicked by their sons.

Myth #14: There are as many abusive women as abusive men.

It is true that there are women who treat their partners badly, from berating them to attempting to control them. However these instances are much less frequent and the instances of physical abuse, including physical intimidation and violence, and sexual abuse are even more rare. According to a report published by the National Institute of Justice, “women experience more intimate partner violence than do men,” with 22.1% of women surveyed reported they were physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend or date, as opposed to 7.4% of surveyed reporting the same.[1] The same report shows that the majority (64%) of women who were physically assaulted, raped and/or stalked since the age of 18 were victimized by men, specifically a current or former husband, co-habitating partner, boyfriend or date. It is important to note that men can be abused by other men and women can be abused by other women. The key aspects of verbal and emotional abuse, specifically using sarcasm, put-downs, twisting everything around on the other partner, and using other tactics of control, are seen in all abusive relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Myth #15: His abusiveness is as bad for him as for his partner.

The perpetrators of abuse get over the pain of abusive incidents far faster than those they abuse. In fact, abusers often tend to benefit in many ways from their controlling behaviors. Abusers often outperform their victims on psychological tests, such as those given for custody disputes, because they have not been traumatized by the long-term psychological or physical assault they inflict on their victims. Thus, if his abusiveness were truly as bad for him as it is for his partner, you would see him display the same reactions of trauma.

Resources:

[1] Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N., (2000) Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.ncjrs.gov.


Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 3

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Welcome back to our discussion on the myths about domestic violence. We continue our focus on the myths about abusive men, specifically myths about what causes abusive men to be abusive. As before, information for the blog is taken from the book “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft. Please visit http://www.lundybancroft.com for more information.

Myth #7: He holds in his feelings too much.

This is often referred to as “The Boiler Theory of Men” – that men keep their emotions pent up inside and that in time they are bound to blow up. The truth is that most abusive men are actually quite the opposite in respect to their feelings, and they have an exaggerated idea of how important their feelings are. They talk about their feelings and act them out all the time, until those who are on the receiving end, their partners and children, are exhausted from it. It is not their feelings that are the problem, but their thinking and their attitudes about the feelings of others. They are too distant from their partner’s and children’s feelings rather than their own. This “boiler theory” appears to make sense because abusive men often follow a pattern of withdrawing, saying less and less, and then they appear to boil over and erupt in yelling, put-downs and other abusive behaviors. However the mounting tension is actually driven by his lack of empathy for the feelings of his partner and children, and then he gives himself permission to explode.

Myth #8: He has an aggressive personality.

It is understandable why this would be an attractive myth to believe – if it were true it would make it much easier to women to decrease the chances of ending up in an abusive relationship. However, the majority of abusers are often quite responsible calm when dealing with affairs and people unrelated to their partners. For most abusers, but not all, they do not get aggressive with individuals other than their partners. This actually is a contributing factor to why many women stay feel trapped in abusive relationships – their partners are calm and gentle people outside of the home, it’s so hard to believe they could be so different behind closed doors. This is one of the manipulative, twisted aspects of abusive partners and it serves to ensure their partners will not reach out for support.

This myth is perpetuated by the societal stereotype that abusers are relatively uneducated and blue-collar men. This is not only an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it overlooks the fact that a college-educated or professional man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing his partner as anyone else. The truth is, the more educated the abuser is, the more knots he can tie in his partner’s mind, the better he is at getting her to put the blame on herself for his behavior, and the slicker he is at being able to persuade others that she is crazy. Also, and this is a very important point, the more socially powerful an abuser, the more powerful his abuse can be – he has more influence and has more pull in the public eye, and this makes it much more difficult for his partner to escape.

Myth #9: He has low self-esteem.

Many would like to believe that abusive behavior is the result of the abusive man feeling bad about himself, having low self-esteem. This misconception leads the victim to do what she can to boost his confidence. However, this only makes the problem worse. Abusive men expect being catered to, and the more positive attention they receive, the more they demand. Thus, the self-esteem myth is ultimately rewarding to the abuser – it gets his partner, his therapist and others involved to cater to him emotionally.

Myth #10: He is too angry.

Perhaps the most common myth about abusive men is that they have anger management problems, that they are abusive because they are unable to appropriately cope with and manage their anger. The cause and effect belief usually looks like this: He is abusive because he is angry. However, this is the reverse of the truth – he is angry because he is abusive. Everybody gets angry and most have, on occasion, gotten too angry, where their anger is out of proportion to an event or beyond what is healthy for them. Some get ulcers, hypertension and heart attacks as a result. However, these individuals do not necessarily abuse their partners. An abusive partner’s anger can be misleading, in that it diverts the attention away from all the disrespect, irresponsibility, lying, talking over you, and other abusive and controlling behaviors he displays, even when he isn’t particularly upset.

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Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 1

With the recent events involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife, the epidemic of domestic violence has been in the spotlight of America. Various parties throughout the past few months have given many opinions and beliefs about domestic violence, more so in the past few weeks since a video of Ray Rice brutally attacking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, rendering her unconscious. Having spent most of my counseling career working with women and children who have experienced domestic violence, this has certainly stirred up a lot for me. There are several myths about domestic violence that are perpetuated by in the media and I think it is important to identify these are myths that many Americans believe to be true.

Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

So, lets take a look at these myths about domestic violence and set some things straight. This conversation will be split into 3 parts, as there are over a dozen myths to be discussed. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that for the purposes of this discussion, I will be referring to the abusive party as a man and the victim as a woman. This is because the vast majority of abusers are men and their victims are women. However, it is also important to note that abuse also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships. The information for these blogs is taken from the book, “Why Does He Do That: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men,” by Lundy Bancroft. This is one of the most widely used texts utilized by experts in the field of domestic violence. To learn more about Mr. Bancroft and his extensive work with abusive men, please click on this link: http://www.lundybancroft.com.

Now onto the myths:

Myth #1: He was abused as a child.

Research has shown there to be a weak connection between childhood abuse and later abusive behavior. The fact is that experiencing abuse in childhood does not cause a man to later become abusive towards his partners. The only influence of child abuse on later abusive behaviors is that men who are already abusive have a propensity to be more violently abusive if they experienced abuse in childhood. It is not uncommon for abusive men to use negative and often traumatic experiences in their childhood to explain their abusive behaviors, but this is actually a way to escape taking responsibility for their actions. Non-abusive men do not use their past as an excuse to mistreat their partners.

Myth #2: His previous partner hurt him.

As discussed previously, in that abusive men often use past incidents or relationships as excuses for their current abusive behaviors. Someone who was genuinely mistreated in a previous relationship would not be using that experience to get away with hurting others. An important point to remember about abuse, if it is an excuse for mistreatment, it’s a distortion.

Myth #3: He abuses alcohol or drugs.

Many individuals wish to believe that alcohol or drugs cause a person to become abusive. I completely understand why this myth would be so prevalent – “If he can get sober, then the abuse will stop.” It would be so much easier to accept it is something outside of the abuser, controlling him, such as alcoholism or drug addiction, to explain his behaviors. And this myth can provide hope that an abuser really can change if this aspect of his life is changed. However, it is simply not true. The fact of the matter is that alcohol and drugs cannot make an abuser, and thus sobriety cannot cure one. An abusive man must deal with his abusiveness in order to overcome his abusiveness.

I hope this introduction to the myths about domestic violence has sparked piqued interest in the readers at home into the true nature of domestic violence. Next week we will look at more myths about domestic violence. If you or someone you love is involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Following are some links for resources in the Austin area and you are also encouraged to contact us at Austin Family Counseling.

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