Thankfully, elder abuse is generally no longer occurring under the radar, although another common type of physical abuse is rarely mentioned. It is the abuse and intimidation of entire families in a social setting. ‘Neighbours from hell’ are master abusers, and intimidate, for example, by pulling shrubs, invading property, kicking footballs at a neighbour’s house or at the neighbour, damaging a neighbour’s car, shouting, and playing loud music late at night. They sometimes succeed in making neighbours so fearful that they remain confined to their house. They copper-fasten their neighbours’ isolation by slandering them to other residents on an estate, and blaming them for all confrontations. This is exactly what happens in an intimate relationship, where the abuser tries to isolate the victim.
Physical abusers do not accept responsibility for their behaviours, but blame others for their own feelings, by making such statements as ‘you make me mad’, ‘I wouldn’t feel like this if it weren’t for you’, and so on. Since abusers have low self-esteem, they are hypersensitive and easily insulted or upset. They perceive small setbacks as serious personal injustices, and react accordingly.
Some male abusers appear to show remorse and conscience, but it is hard to see how genuine this is, since the basic mindset of the abusive personality type neutralises any feelings of guilt or compassion. For example, they minimise battery by saying that it happens only occasionally, or that they did not use a weapon and so the abuse is not really bad. They argue that spousal abuse happens in all relationships. Others use moral justification, citing scripture to show that a wife should submit to the (male) head of the household.
Pleading lack of control from drunkenness is also a common excuse. One of the worst ways of diminishing the horror of physical abuse is to dehumanise the victim by saying that the abused person deserves everything she gets.
Much of the above evidence relates to male violence against women, but since the female abusive personality type is similar to the male one, it should come as no surprise to learn that women are as physically abusive as men. There are many statistics among researchers with, however, significant different outcomes. So, it should come as no surprise that statements about the extent of female perpetration arouse some controversy. Irrespective of statistics, it is now recognised by state institutions and state health bodies that men suffer abuse at the hands of women. Dr Martin Fiebert, a clinical psychologist at California State University, has recently published a substantial list of reliable sources on female abuse. A 1970s report indicates that men suffer as much physical violence at the hands of women as women do from men. Almost 40-50 per cent of men will suffer physical abuse, a statistic comparable to women victims. Joy Stevens quotes from a 1997 survey of dating couples in which 30% of the women admitted beating their partners. Not all female assaults are retaliation against male violence, but arise from a need for power. This is clearly seen in lesbian relationships, where perpetrators show similar characteristics of dependence and jealousy as male abusers.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
PSYCHOTHERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
THERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
DEATH OF A CHILD