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 Invisible Violence

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Data d'iscrizione : 2008-05-27

PostSubject: Invisible Violence   Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:41 am

Domestic abuse isn't only about broken limbs and bruises. Many women suffer from daily belittling, verbal assault, and emotional battery that are every bit as damaging — and equally unacceptable.


Photo Credit: Andrew Eccles
Special Offer Danielle Malmquist had just finished her master's degree in real estate development at a Los Angeles university when she met John* six years ago. John was a charming FedEx pilot who supported her career and made her romantic dinners. "He was fun, full of life, and interested in the same things I was," says Danielle, now 36. "I really fell hard for him."

But a few months into the relationship, Danielle saw a different side of John. One night, she'd planned to see a play with her friend Alan. When she told John, he asked Danielle to cancel her plans. She gently refused, and on the night of the play, John stopped by Danielle's house, "just so we can spend some time together before you leave," he said.

"Wow, he seems really possessive," Alan remarked as he and Danielle drove off. "He's just a little jealous," Danielle explained. "He'll get over it." That evening, John called Danielle repeatedly on her cell phone. Annoyed, Danielle didn't answer — and for the next few days, she ignored his calls. When she did agree to talk, Danielle was honest with John: "I don't think we're going to work out," she told him. Furious, John told Danielle that Alan "wanted more" from her. "Men aren't 'just friends' with women!" he raged.

We're through, Danielle said to herself as John berated her for hanging out with Alan. But a week later, John sent her roses and begged for her forgiveness. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I realize I was wrong. I didn't mean to be so extreme. I'm just going through so much stress at work; this isn't like me at all."

Well, nobody's perfect, Danielle thought. Besides, she wanted to believe John — she was in love with him and he said he'd realized his mistakes — so she took him back.

Five months later, Danielle found out she was pregnant, and John proposed. Certain she wanted to have the baby, Danielle married him. Shortly after their son, Avin, was born, John suggested that Danielle stay home with the baby. But once Danielle was home full-time, John started to find fault in everything about her: how she cared for the baby ("You're really not a good mother," he'd tell her), how she looked ("You've put on a lot of weight"), and her ability to take care of him ("You've been home all day! You could at least make me dinner!"). When they were out with friends, John rolled his eyes whenever Danielle offered an opinion about politics. "She doesn't know what she's talking about," he'd say. His rage-filled explosions began happening more frequently, taking on a pattern: John would criticize Danielle's housekeeping and accuse her of being a bad wife and mother; she'd start to cry; he'd say that her reaction meant she was suffering from postpartum depression — or that she was going crazy. Sometimes he would apologize, sort of: "I'm sorry," he'd say after an outburst. "It's just that you're pissing me off."

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PostSubject: Re: Invisible Violence   Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:42 am

What am I doing to make him this angry? Danielle asked herself when John berated her. She always acquiesced to his demands — being vigilant about the housekeeping, trying to keep Avin from crying — but that didn't seem to calm him down. Is he right? Am I a bad mom? Am I going crazy? she wondered. Truthfully, Danielle didn't know anymore, and the more John questioned her sanity, the more she began to believe him. She wished she could get an outside perspective, but she'd stopped calling her sisters and her friends; they didn't like John, and Danielle didn't want to give them any more ammunition against him. "I wanted to make my marriage work," says Danielle. By then, protecting John and their marriage seemed more important to Danielle than her own peace of mind.

After I return to work, we'll go back to normal, Danielle repeatedly reassured herself. But soon she was pregnant with their second child, and the shift in their relationship that she'd hoped for never happened. Instead, she coped the only way she knew how: by walking on eggshells around him, hoping not to upset him, and constantly trying, in vain, to be a "better" wife and mother. Finally, after four years of marriage, Danielle caught John in an affair — and she seized the opportunity to leave him. When Danielle met with her legal advocate, Rosa, to discuss her separation agreement, she told Rosa about John's consistently controlling behavior.

"Okay, let's list all the abuse," Rosa said, pushing a sheet of paper toward Danielle.

"Oh, there was no abuse," Danielle said, pushing the paper back to Rosa.

"He never yelled and screamed at you? Called you names? Disrespected you? Trivialized you? Blamed you?" Rosa continued.

"Sure," Danielle said. "But he didn't abuse me."

"Danielle," Rosa said, leaning forward in her chair, "that is abuse."

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PostSubject: Re: Invisible Violence   Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:44 am

What is emotional abuse?

"The design of emotional and verbal abuse is to break the soul," says Jill Murray, Psy.D., author of But He Never Hit Me: The Devastating Cost of Non-Physical Abuse to Girls and Women . "To squash the person into the ground, to make sure she's always going to stay with you because she has nothing else." And it can happen to anyone, whether she's a CEO making millions of dollars a year or a retail clerk making minimum wage. (Women engage in emotional abuse too, of course — more often than they commit physical abuse — but experts say men are more likely to use these tactics to instill fear and intimidation in their partner.)

Emotional abuse can take many forms: Name-calling. Telling someone she's worthless. Making "rules" she has to follow. Throwing rageful fits and tantrums. Degrading her. Dictating how she's going to dress, or what she's going to order in a restaurant. Calling her constantly while she's at work or out with friends to harass her about something at home. Experts use different labels to describe this behavior — psychological, emotional, or verbal abuse — but it all means the same thing: "It's any kind of nonphysical attack that's designed to put someone in their place, to control them, or to make them doubt themselves," says therapist Beverly Engel, author of The Emotionally Abusive Relationship .

"Psychological abuse is the most prevalent type of battering that goes on in this country," says Rita Smith, head of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. But it often goes unreported because many people believe domestic violence is physical or sexual abuse. Also, while physical and sexual abuse are crimes, most types of psychological abuse are not; name-calling and constant berating, for instance, can't be reported to the police (other behaviors, like stalking, can). "With physical abuse, there are medical reports and an assault report — in essence, there's proof," adds Sheryl Cates, head of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. "Emotional abuse is more subjective, but it underlies every single one of the calls our hotline receives." Cates says that 13 percent of callers report only emotional abuse; the remaining 87 percent report it together with physical or sexual battery.

Eyes rolled in annoyance when you're out with friends, as with John and Danielle, might seem easy to overlook. But if it happens every day, it eventually takes an emotional toll. "A constant diet of someone being condescending and giving you the message that what you're saying is not important wears away at your self-worth and your trust in your own perceptions," says Engel.

All couples argue and often say intentionally hurtful things when they're upset or angry. But there is a clear line between that kind of acting out and emotional abuse. "Everyone has moments they regret in relationships," says Smith. "But that's not abuse. For the National Coalition to label someone as emotionally battered, the behavior has to be consistent and repeated. And — although this is harder to determine — there has to be a purpose behind that behavior to control the other person."

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