People need to know what boundaries are before they can understand abuse. This will be explored in the early section of the blog, and will enlighten parents on child formation. Parents will also learn about dysfunctional child development in the next section, which looks at the creation of the abusive personality.
The report by Cosc shows that the Irish population has a high level of awareness of the reality of domestic abuse, yet my experience is that many people do not realise that they are victims. People reared in abusive homes see it as normal, and others from warm caring homes are ignorant of what it means, and may spend years in abusive relationships, struggling to understand why the person they love is trying to harm them. Many victims are highly educated, and still they do not see the underlying pattern of control, and realise that the abusive behaviour is a planned and deliberate behaviour. This is well illustrated in some of the stories in Elaine Weiss’s book Surviving Domestic Violence. Voices of Women Who Broke Free. One of my clients, ‘Linda’ tells her harrowing story, and brings us into a marriage where her husband displays all the characteristics of the abuser.
Thankfully, victims such as Linda can break free and live independent and happy lives; and the blog looks at leaving, surviving and recovering from an abusive relationship. I hope, also, that those with abusive tendencies will read it, stop and think, and realise just how damaging their behaviour is. The final section offers suggestions on how to expel this destructive menace from their lives.
Abuse is not about alcohol addiction. Some abusers may be alcoholics, but abuse does not stem from that. Someone who is not abusive will not be abusive when either drunk or sober, and someone who is abusive will be abusive, drunk or sober. One of Elaine Weiss’s storytellers puts this well when she says that her partner hit her when he was sober, but he hit her harder when he was drunk. Sometimes abusers will use alcohol as an excuse to carry out abusive acts and to punish the victim, and then pretend that they do not remember what they did when they were drunk. Victims may be confused because abuse shares some of the features of addiction insofar as both can escalate, both may involve minimising, manipulation, blaming and so on.
Abuse is driven by toxic shame and rage, and, I believe, is engraved in the biology of the brain. It is also the offspring of childhood conditioning and can be a learned behaviour, underpinned by irrational thoughts, beliefs and values. Driven by these, abusers use power and control to humiliate the victims, trample on their boundaries, and exert control over them. Among other aspects, the blog will explore how the abuser tries to control the victim’s time, their material resources; controlling by body language and gestures, by confusing the victim and defining their reality, by blaming, and by reducing the victim’s status through demeaning behaviours, violence, sexual control, or perhaps financial manipulation.
The blog cannot explore every aspect of abuse, but I feel confident that it will be sufficient to educate you on the causes, nature and consequence of this behaviour. It is designed to help you. It has no other purpose.
Adapted from the book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying by Jim O’Shea. Cork University Press.