My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm a professor of psychology and the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and a series of other books and e-books about personality disorders, philosophy and allied topics.
I was very surprised recently when I found out that there's a lot of material online, numerous, numerous, innumerable videos and texts and articles and papers on various forms of abuse such as sexual abuse and sexual assault, verbal abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, even financial abuse and legal abuse.
But there's very little of substance in depth about physical abuse, battering, assault, physical assault.
And so I rushed to the bridge and in today's video, I will try to deal with two issues.
The first one, what are the effects of physical abuse on the intimate partner, on the victim?
And the second question is how does society react to physical abuse, battering and physical assault? When it is within the confines of the dyad, when it is within a couple, when it's in a marriage. So issues such as marital rape, a pretty novel idea, only in the past few decades did we come to the realization that rape can take place inside a marriage.
Issues such as where is the boundary, where is the limit between a reasonable expected expression of physical aggression and physical assault? Is there such a thing? Is there a legitimate way to express physical aggression? What if I break objects, smash things? Is that okay? Etc.
So how society views this issue is the second part of the video.
The first part of the video is the most recent knowledge about how physical abuse affects the battered, the assaulted party.
And I would like to start with a quote from one of my favorite authors on the topic.
He wrote a seminal essay called Understanding the Batterer in Visitation and Custody Disputes. His name is Lundy Bancroft, and he sums up the asymmetry in favor of the offender.
And this is what he says, batterers, people who physically assault others, batterers adopt the role of a hurt sensitive man who does not understand how things got so bad and just wants to work it all out for the good of the children.
This man may cry and use language that demonstrates considerable insight into his own feelings. He is likely to be skilled at explaining how other people have turned the victim against him and how she is denying him access to the children as a form of revenge.
The batterer commonly accuses her, his intimate partner, of having mental health problems and may state that her family and friends agree with him that she is hysterical and that she is promiscuous.
The abuser tends to be comfortable lying, having years of practice, and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser benefits when professionals believe that they can just tell who is lying and who is telling the truth.
And so these professionals fail to adequately investigate.
Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed and agitated, while the abuser appears to be friendly, articulate and calm.
Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship.
Lundy Bancroft, go online and find anything he has ever written.
But physical abuse, physical assault, including sexual assault, if it is very violent and aggressive. What does it do to the victim? What does it do to the affected party?
I'm not going to focus on trauma, PTSD, CPTSD, there are other videos that I've made which deal with this aspect.
Trauma is a delayed reaction. It's not immediate.
Trauma is the outcome of processing the assault, processing the violation of one's boundaries, or processing the invasion, and processing the humiliation, in some ways narcissistic injury or mortification to the individual. So trauma is a delayed reaction.
Nor is trauma universal. Many people do not get traumatized.
So trauma is highly idiosyncratic, highly specific to certain individuals with predisposition for trauma.
I've discussed all this in other videos.
Today what I want to discuss is what physical abuse does to the relationship between the victim and her body.
There is one place in which one's privacy, intimacy, integrity and inviolability are guaranteed.
It's one's body. One's body is a unique temple, a shrine, a familiar territory of sensa, sensory input and personal history.
What happens, the assaulter, the batterer, the torturer, let's call a spade a spade, repeated continuous physical abuse and sexual abuse, aggressive, violent sexual abuse and physical abuse, physical assault that are coupled with intimidation, intermittent reinforcement, trauma bonding, a hostage Stockholm Syndrome situation. This is torture. This is exactly what torturers do on behest of governments when they torture, I don't know, terrorism suspects.
Torture is exactly this, the confluence, the congruence and the collusion of a psychological dimension and a physical dimension where the physical is a mere reification or manifestation or expression of implied psychological signaling and messaging.
You are a nothing, you are a non-entity, you have no boundaries and no protection from me, I can invade you at any time, I can do anything I want to you.
It's a horror film and so I'm going to use the word torture if you don't mind.
The assaulter, the batterer, the torturer invades, defiles, desecrates this shrine, the body and it does it usually publicly.
Most domestic violence and family violence takes place in the presence of witnesses, usually children but not only children, parents of the assaulted party, friends of the assaulted party, family of the assaulted party, neighbors.
So most of these attacks take place publicly, deliberately, repeatedly and often sadistically and involve usually some sexual dimension or at least erotic damage.
They contain an element of undisguised pleasure. It's not the pleasure in attacking the other party, it's not the pleasure in causing pain, that would be pure sadism, it's the pleasure of omnipotence, it's the pleasure in establishing a power hierarchy, a power matrix, the torturer, the abuser, the harasser, the batterer is on top, he's top dog.
It's the submissiveness of the victim that turns him on. It's a power play exactly like rape, rape is not about sex, it's about power.
And so there's an all pervasive, long-lasting and frequently irreversible effects and outcomes both to the victim and equally importantly to the abuser.
Because physical abuse is habituating, it triggers a dopamine loop in the brain, it causes pleasure, omnipotence is a pleasurable experience and so the abuser wants more. He is incentivised by his own brain to abuse even more and more.
In a way, the torture victim's own body is rendered her worst enemy.
You see, it's the abuser, it's the attacker that causes the pain but the corporeal agony is experienced by the body and in a way the victim begins to resent her body.
It's very childish, there's a lot of magical thinking here, primitive thinking, it's like the abuser is angry at the body, resents the body.
Why do you cause me pain? Why don't you resist the abuse effectively by not causing me pain?
It's this agony that compels the sufferer to mutate.
The identity of the victim prevents her ideals and principles crumble. The body becomes an accomplice of the tormentor, accomplice of the abuser. They both work together to cause the victim pain, agony.
It is an uninterruptible channel of communication to the victim. It's a treasonous, poisoned territory.
The body becomes a fifth column, a traitor.
This fosters a humiliating dependency of the abused victim on the perpetrator. She becomes dependent on the perpetrator.
In most cases of domestic violence and family violence, bodily needs are denied. For example, many victims of physical abuse will tell you that they are afraid to go to sleep, they are afraid to fall asleep. Many of them avoid going to the toilet because they are afraid to emerge, to the unknown, to the unpredictable, to the capricious and arbitrary and horror-like from disjointed reality. Many of them forgo food because meals, family meals are usually cause, trigger for physical assault.
So many bodily needs, the victim denies her bodily needs and they are wrongly perceived by the victim as the direct causes of her degradation and dehumanization.
As she sees it, she is rendered bestial, she is rendered animalistic.
Not by the sadistic bully, her spouse or her boyfriend or whoever it is, not by the sadistic bully, but by her own flesh and blood. Her own body betrays her, turns on her, turns against her. She can't trust her body anymore. This is a relationship of mistrust and distrust.
The very concept of body can easily be extended to family or to whom.
Torture is often applied not only to the spouse but to kin and kith, to children, to the children, to the spouse's parents, her brother, siblings, whatever, even colleagues.
The typical physical batterer, the typical abuser intends to disrupt the continuity of surroundings, habits, appearance, relations with others.
This quote that I just used is from the CIA. The CIA, being the savory organization that it is, published a manual about torture where it advises torturers and tormentors how to disrupt the continuity and therefore the identity of the victim.
A sense of cohesive self-identity depends crucially on the familiar, on the benevolent, on the continuous.
You have to believe that people around you are essentially good. Yes, they can behave immorally, they can make mistakes, they can even sometimes deceive you or betray you, but essentially they're good.
This belief is very often counterfactual when it comes to the abuser. The abuser is not good, is malicious, malevolent.
By attacking both one's physical body and one's social body, the victim's psyche is strained to the point of dissociation and breaking.
She writes, I'm quoting, as the gap between the I and the me deepens, dissociation and alienation increase.
The subject that, under torture, was forced into the position of a pure object has lost her sense of interiority, intimacy and privacy.
Time is experienced now in the present only and perspective, that which allows for a sense of relativity, is foreclosed. Thoughts and dreams attack the mind and invade the body, as if the protective skin that normally contains our thoughts, gives us space to breathe in between the thought and the thing being thought about, as if the skin separates.
This skin falls away. It separates between the inside and the outside, the past and the present, the me and the you, and this skin was lost.
Torture robs the victim of the most basic modes of relating to reality. It is the equivalent of cognitive death. Space and time are warped by, for example, sleep deprivation and by the lack of predictability.
We perceive our surroundings, our environment, via habits and via models in the brain, models of cause and effect. A leads to B. If I do X, I will get Y.
Physical assault, physical battering, they disrupt discontinuity, they disrupt the rationality, they disrupt the reason behind the world. The world becomes, to use Jordan Peterson's term, chaotic. There's chaos.
The self, the I, is shattered. The tortured party have nothing familiar to hold on to. Not family, not home, not personal belongings, not loved ones, not language even.
Some abusers, physical abusers, react when the victim uses her name. It seems to trigger them for some reason.
Gradually the victims lose their mental resilience, their sense of freedom and who they are. They feel alien, unable to communicate, unable to relate, to attach, to empathize with other people.
There's a marked decline in empathy, by the way, among tortured victims. Very similar to people with chronic illness. Chronic illness is also perceived to be an attack on the body. COVID-19 is an attack on your body with which your body is collaborating.
Torture splinters early childhood grandiose narcissistic fantasies of uniqueness, omnipotence, invulnerability, impenetrability and most importantly, lovability that you can be loved.
But physical assault enhances the fantasy of merger with an idealized and omnipotent, though not benign, other. The inflictor of the agony. That's the said irony.
Trauma bonding, Stockholm syndrome. It's a sad irony.
The more you're tortured, the more you're bullied, the more you're physically attacked, the more you're hurt, the more you're wounded, the more you end up in a hospital, the more you get attached to the person who is doing this to you.
The twin processes of individuation and separation are reversed by physical assault because it's like the bodies merge. The body of your attacker and your body are collaborating.
They become a single organism, single entity of pain.
Torture isn't the ultimate act of perverted intimacy. The torture invades the victim's body, pervades her psyche, possesses her mind.
Deprived of contact with others, starved for human interactions, typically, the prey, the victim bonds with the only person around, the predatory assaulter, the predatory attacker, her abuser.
Traumatic bonding, akin to Stockholm syndrome, is about hope, actually. It's about the search for meaning in the brutal and indifferent and nightmarish universe of the torture cell, usually the family, the family unit.
So the abuser becomes like a black hole at the center of the victim's surrealistic galaxy. The abuser sucks in. The victim's universal need for solace, her suffering, he feeds on her suffering.
The victim tries to control her tormentor, to control the attacker by becoming one with him, by merging and fusing with him, by introjecting him, and by appealing to the monster's presumably dormant humanity and empathy.
And this bonding is especially strong when the torturer and the tortured form a dyad, when they are really attached to each other.
It's a common myth that stalkers, abusers, batterers, and so on are not attached to their prey. They are even more attached than in a typical relationship.
Hate, aggression are a glue that is stronger than love.
And so the bonding is very strong. The dyad is very powerful.
And so the victim seeks to collaborate in the rituals and acts and ceremonies of torture.
For example, when the victim is coerced, sometimes into selecting the torture implements and the types of torment to be inflicted, or to choose between two evils, or to participate in sex acts that she finds abhorrent and painful.
The psychologist Shirley Spitz offers this powerful overview of the contradictory nature of torture in a seminar titled The Psychology of Torture in 1989.
I'm quoting, torture is an obscenity in that it joins what is most private with what is most public.
Torture entails all the isolation and the extreme solitude of privacy, with none of the usual security embodied therein. Torture entails at the same time all the self exposure of the utterly public, with none of its possibilities for camaraderie or shared experience.
The presence of an all powerful other with whom to merge without the security of the others benign intentions.
A further obscenity of torture is the inversion it makes of intimate human relationships.
Interrogation is a form of social encounter in which the normal rules of communicating, of relating, of intimacy are manipulated. Dependency and its needs are elicited by the interrogator, by the abuser, by the attacker, by the assaulter.
But not so they may be met as in close relationship, but in order to weaken and confuse.
Independence that is offered in return for betrayal is a lie, silence is intentionally misinterpreted either as confirmation of information or as guilt for complicity.
Torture combines complete humiliating exposure with utter devastating isolation.
The final products and outcomes of torture are a scarred and often shattered victim in an empty display of the fiction of power.
Obsessed by endless ruminations, demented by pain and a continuum of sleeplessness, the victim regresses, goes back to childhood, shedding all but the most primitive defense mechanisms, splitting, narcissism, dissociation, projective identification, introjection and cognitive dissonance. All the rest are deleted.
In other words, physical assault, battery, induces what we call decompensation.
The victim constructs an alternative world, often suffering from depersonalization and derealization. Amnesiac dissociation, hallucinations, ideas of reference, delusions and even psychotic episodes.
Sometimes the victim comes to crave pain, crave pain masochistically, very much as self-mutilators do, because it is a proof and a reminder of her individuated existence, otherwise blurred by the incessant torture.
In other words, the more physically you are attacked, the more you are raped, the more you are abused, battered, broken, beaten, the more sometimes you get addicted to the pain, the more you crave the pain, because it's only when you are in pain, in agony, in anguish that you feel alive.
The rest of the time you feel dead or suspended or disanimated somehow in a vegetative state, comatose.
Pain wakes you up. Pain shields the sufferer from disintegration and capitulation. It keeps you alive and resistant. It enhances resilience. It preserves the veracity of her unthinkable and unspeakable experiences. It proves to you that you are right. The abuser is wrong. Pain is a certificate of virtue.
This dual process of the victim's alienation and addiction to anguish. This process complements the perpetrator's view of his quarry as inhuman or subhuman.
The abuser, the attacker, the torturer assumes a position of the sole authority, the exclusive fount and source of meaning and interpretation, the fountainhead of evil and good, godlike.
Torture is about reprogramming the victim to succumb to an alternative interpretation, exigencies of the world.
The abuser comes to the victim, the attacker, the batterer, the wife beater comes to the victim and says, listen, I'm going to use your body to alter your mind. It is an act of deep indelible, traumatic indoctrination, brainwashing.
The abused, the victim also swallows whole and assimilates her attackers, her abuses negative view of her and often as a result is rendered suicidal, self-destructive, self-defeating.
So torture has no cutoff date. Once you are physically assaulted, even in a single incident by the way, let alone over many years, the sounds, the voices, the smells, the sensations, the emotions attendant on that incident reverberate in your mind like in an echo chamber long after the episode had ended.
You experience nightmares, but also in waking moments. The victim's ability to trust other people, to assume that their motives are at least rational, if not necessarily benign. This trust is irrevocably undermined, shattered, broken, you know, social institutions are perceived as precariously poised on the verge of an ominous Kafkaesque mutation. When I say social institutions, I mean also the family.
Nothing is either safe or credible anymore.
Victims typically react by undulating, oscillating between emotional numbing and increased arousal.
Insomnia, irritability, restlessness, attention deficits, these are not the result of numbing. On the contrary, they are the result of an excitatory state, adrenaline infused body, fight of light or freeze or fawn.
Recollections of the traumatic events intrude in the form of dreams, night terrors, flashbacks, distressing associations.
The victim, the tortured, develop compulsive rituals to fend off obsessive thoughts, intrusive thoughts. Other psychological sequelae reported include cognitive impairment, reduced capacity to learn. I'm talking about the victim, yeah, after she's habitually, sexually molested, physically attacked or both.
So she develops cognitive impairment, reduced capacity to learn, memory disorders, sexual dysfunction, social withdrawal, inability to maintain long-term relationships or even mere intimacy, phobias like agoraphobias, ideas of reference and superstitions, delusions, hallucinations, psychotic micro-episodes and emotional flatness.
Depression and anxiety of course are very common. These are forms and manifestations of self-directed aggression.
The victim is very angry at herself for having placed herself in the torture chamber. The sufferer rages at her own victimhood and the resulting multiple dysfunctions.
She feels ashamed by her new disabilities and she feels responsible or somehow even guilty for her predicament and the dire consequences borne by her nearest and dearest.
Her sense of self-worth and self-esteem are crippled sometimes for good.
In a nutshell, victims of physical assault suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or CPTSD if the assault takes place over a protracted period of time in their many repeated incidents.
Their strong feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame are also typical of victims of childhood abuse, domestic violence of other forms and rape.
These victims feel anxious because the perpetrator's behavior is seemingly arbitrary and unpredictable or mechanically and inhumanly regular, robotic.
Victims feel guilty and disgraced because to restore a semblance of order to their shattered world and a modicum of dominion over their chaotic lives, the victims need to transform themselves into the cause of their own degradation and the accomplices of their tormentors.
They lie to themselves. They say all this happened to me. I made it happen. I was the cause. I provoked him. I provoked him. That's why he is misbehaving.
And you remember the videos I've made about mortification.
Sometimes when you cannot accept that you had been victimized, you compensate by telling yourself I have been victimized justly. I deserved it. I had it coming. I made it happen. That way you cheat yourself, you deceive yourself into believing that you are in control.
The aforementioned charitable organization, the CIA, in its human resource exploitation training manual dated 1983 and reprinted in the April 1997 issue of Harper's Magazine summed up the theory of coercion this way.
Mind you, it's the CIA. The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on her will to resist.
Regression is basically a loss of autonomy, a reversion to an earlier behavioral level.
As the subject regresses, her learned personality traits fall away in reverse chronological order.
She begins to lose the capacity to carry out the highest creative activities, to deal with complex situations or to cope with stressful interpersonal relationships or repeated frustrations.
Trust the CIA to get it right.
Inevitably, in the aftermath of physical assault or torture, the victims feel helpless, powerless, impotent, and this loss of control of one's life and body is manifested physically, sometimes in erectile dysfunction or impotence, vaginismus, attention deficits, insomnia, and this is often exacerbated by the disbelief of many victims, torture victims, physical abuse victims, battering victims.
Victims encounter disbelief when they try to recount their experiences, when they try to describe what had happened to them, they are not believed. They're rejected, especially if they're unable to produce scars, can't show scars, or other objective proof of their ordeal. This happens a lot to rape victims.
Language cannot communicate such an intensely private experience as pain.
Back to Spitz, she makes the following observation.
Pain is also unshareable, cannot be shared, in that it is resistant to language. All our interior states of consciousness, emotional, perceptual, cognitive, and somatic, can be described as having an object in the external world.
This affirms our capacity to move beyond the boundaries of our body into the external, shareable world. This is the space in which we interact and communicate with our environment.
But when we explore the interior state of physical pain, we find that there is no object out there, no external referential content.
Pain is not of or for anything, pain is, and it draws us away from the space of interaction, the shareable world, inwards. It draws us into the boundaries of our own body.
And so bystanders, observers, resent the tortured victim, resent the victim, because the victim makes them feel guilty and ashamed for having done nothing to prevent the atrocity.
The victims threaten people's sense of security and their much needed belief in predictability, justice, rule of law, and the benevolence of people. The victims of their part don't believe that it is possible to effectively communicate to outsiders what they have been through.
So there's a gulf, there's an abyss between the two. The torture chambers, the family setting where the violence took place, the marital or the conjugal bed where you've been raped, it's another galaxy.
This is how Auschwitz was described by the author K. Zetnik in his testimony in the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961.
Kenneth Pope in Torture, a chapter he wrote for the Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impact of Society on Gender.
So in this encyclopedia, in the article on torture, he quotes Harvard psychiatrist Judith Herman, the woman who came up with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
So Herman says, it is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator, of the abuser. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing.
The abuser appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. You know the three monkeys?
The victim on the contrary is asking the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action and gains the engagement, remembering.
People don't want that.
But more often, continued attempts to repress fearful memories result in psychosomatic illness. This is known as a conversion symptom.
The victim wishes to forget the assault, to forget the rape, to forget the torture, to avoid re-experiencing the often life-threatening abuse and to shield her human environment from the horrors.
She doesn't tell her children. She doesn't share with her parents or with her siblings or with her friends or with her neighbors or colleagues. She hides her scars and the wounds, you know, the famous sunglasses, the famous long sleeves, the famous conspicuous scarves that physical abuse victims wear.
In conjunction with the victim's pervasive distrust, this is frequently interpreted as hypervigilance or even paranoia.
It seems that the victims cannot win. Torture is forever.
It is telling that precious few psychology and psychopathology textbooks dedicate an entire chapter to abuse and violence.
Yes, it's a fact. Few psychology and textbooks have a chapter on violence and abuse.
Even the most egregious manifestations such as child sexual abuse, merit a fleeting mention, usually as a sub-chapter, sometimes a footnote in a larger section dedicated to paraphilias or personality disorders.
Abusive behavior did not make it, did not make it, into the diagnostic criteria of mental health disorders and the psychodynamic cultural and social roots of abuse were never explored in depth.
As a result of this deficient education and lacking awareness and denial, most law enforcement officers, policemen, cops, judges, counselors, guardians, evaluators, mediators, they are worryingly ignorant about the phenomenon of abuse and especially physical abuse.
Only 4%, you heard it right, 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States are attributed by staff to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is 50%.
So half of all women who are admitted to emergency rooms in hospitals were physically assaulted, raped and battered, half. But the staff of the hospital misclassifies them and attributes only 4% to domestic violence. One in three murdered women was done in by her spouse, current or former.
The U.S. Department of Justice pegs the number of spouses mostly women threatened with a deadly weapon at almost 2 million annually.
Domestic violence erupts in a mind-boggling half of all American homes, at least once a year.
And these are not isolated out of the blue incidents. Mistreatment and violence are part of an enduring pattern of maladaptive behavior within the relationship. They are sometimes coupled with substance abuse.
Abusers are possessive, pathologically jealous, dependent and often narcissistic.
Invariably, both the abuser and his victim, they seek to conceal the abusive episodes in their aftermath from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues or authorities.
And this dismal state of things is an abuser's and stalker's paradise. This is especially true with psychological, verbal and emotional abuse, which leaves no visible marks and renders the victim incapable of coherence.
And so there's no typical offender. That's true.
Maltreatment crosses racial, cultural, social and economic lines.
And this is because until very recently abuse has constituted a normative, socially acceptable, condoned behavior. It was okay to abuse.
In the law of the land in the United Kingdom, there were measurements as to the size of the stick that the husband can use to beat up his wife. Kidding you're not.
Abuse, physical abuse against children and against spouse are still an integral part of many cultures and societies.
For example, in Russia, they deleted, they removed the law, they had a law and they got rid of it. A domestic violence law. Because they say it's okay for a husband to beat up his wife. It's part of the socialization process.
In many Muslim countries, beating up women is an acceptable practice and children.
For the bulk of human history, women and children were considered no better than property, Chatel.
Indeed well into the 18th century, women and children still made it into lists of assets and liabilities of the household. One bed, two desks, one woman, three children.
Early legislation in America, fashioned after European law, both Anglo-Saxon and continental, permitted wife battering for the purpose of behavior modification. The circumference of the stick used, specified the statute, should not exceed that of the husband's thumb.
Inevitably, many victims blame themselves for the dismal state of affairs.
The abuse party may have low self-esteem, a fluctuating sense of self-worth, primitive defense mechanisms, phobias, mental health problems, a disability, a history of failure, or a tendency to blame herself, autoplastic defense. To feel inadequate. autoplastic neurosis.
This kind of victim may come from an abusive family or environment which conditioned her to expect abuse as inevitable and normal.
In extreme and rare cases, the victim is a masochist, possessed of an urge to seek ill treatment and pain.
And gradually, the victims convert these unhealthy emotions, this background of mental health dysfunction, and their learned helplessness in the face of persistent gaslighting, they convert on this into psychosomatic symptoms, into anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or in extremes, suicidal ideation, and even suicidal gestures.
I want to quote from my book, Toxic Relationships Abuse and it's Aftermath, the November 2005 edition.
Therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court appointed guardians, police officers, and judges are all human. It may come as a shock to you.
Some of them are social reactionaries, others are narcissistic, and a few of these people are themselves spouse abusers. Many things work against the victim facing the justice system and the psychological profession.
Let's start with denial. I'm quoting from the book, Toxic Relationships Abuse and it's Aftermath. Let's start with denial.
Abuse is such a horrid phenomenon that society and its delegates often choose to ignore it or to convert it into a more benign manifestation, kind of narrative, typically by pathologizing the situation or the victim rather than the perpetrator.
A man's home is still his castle, and the authorities are loath to intrude and intervene.
Most abusers are men, most victims are women. Even the most advanced communities in the world are largely still patriarchal and chauvinistic. Misogynistic gender stereotypes, superstitions, biases, prejudices, strong.
Therapists are not immune to these ubiquitous and age-old influences and biases, don't think they have a special lease on objectivity. Therapists are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness and manipulativeness of the abuser and his impressive thespian acting skills.
The abuser offers plausible rendition of the events, interprets the events in his favor.
The therapist rarely has a chance to witness, actually witness, an abusive exchange firsthand and at close quarters.
In contrast, when the abused victim comes to the therapist, she is often on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She is harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive and hysterical.
Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, suave, groomed, charming abuser and his harried casualties, it is easy to reach conclusion that the real victim is the abuser or that both parties abuse each other equally.
The victim's acts of self-defense, her attempts to be assertive, her insistence on her rights are interpreted even by therapists as aggression, lability or a mental health problem.
The profession's propensity to pathologize extends to the wrong doors as well.
Alas, few therapists are equipped to do proper clinical work, including diagnosis.
Abuses are thought by practitioners of psychology to be emotionally disturbed, the twisted outcomes of a history of familial violence and childhood traumas.
They are typically diagnosed as suffering from some kind of personality disorder, an inordinately low self-esteem or co-dependence coupled with an all-devouring fear of abandonment.
Consummate abusers use the right vocabulary. They feign the appropriate emotions and affects. They display remorse, they repent, they regret, they are ashamed and guilty ostentatiously.
And they sway, they sway the therapist and the evaluator's judgment. They're good at manipulating, that's what they do best.
But while the victim's pathology works against her, especially in custody battles, the culprit's illness works for him as a mitigating circumstance, especially in criminal proceedings.
The system ends up re-pathologizing and re-traumatizing the victim.
Don't forget that.