These mind games confuse victims so much that they begin to manifest battered person’s syndrome, the first stage of which is denial. Denying that there is a problem, the victim often makes excuses for the abuser. The second stage is guilt, when she takes on the responsibility for being beaten. She becomes part of a codependent relationship where she strives to be a ‘better’ wife, mother, and so on, hoping in vain that this will prevent the violence. The third phase, enlightenment, occurs when the victim realizes that no one deserves to be beaten, but remains in the abusive situation in the hope the relationship will change for the better. The final stage is called responsibility, because the victim realises that only the abuser can heal him. To manage this stage successfully, the victim must take the necessary steps to leave the abusive relationship, a move that will be explored later.
Research shows that some people batter (strike repeatedly) to exert power and control for three reasons – to get their partners to stop doing something they disapprove of, to stop them from saying things or to end an argument, and to punish them for something they have done.
As we have seen, this desire for power and control is fuelled by the seething furnace of rage and shame. Think of the vulnerable and raging abandoned child crouched in the psyche of the seemingly charming adult. When the conquest is over, he is ready to strike. There is no rage as intense as the rage of the child, but when it has the weapon of adult physical strength, how dangerous it can be in intimate relationships. Male batterers are the victims of socialisation. Boys at a young age have traditionally been taught to hide their sadness and pain, and to respond to stress without showing emotion. Men are more likely to feel anger, but before anger emerges, they will have experienced hurt, rejection, humiliation, loneliness, helplessness, and so on. When these are suppressed, they turn into anger. Sometimes anger becomes addictive, and batterers find relief by striking out. This then becomes a pattern of relief and release. Male children who witness violence among their parents are 700 times more likely to become batterers, and if they have been physically abused, are 1,000 times more likely to beat their female partners.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
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DEATH OF A CHILD