Necessary force

People who are abusive only use the amount of force necessary to maintain dominance in their relationship.

When I say this to someone, I often see them pause in their reaction. Most people imagine that abusive people are out of control, or lash out when angry. And that the use of physical abuse―like hitting, slapping, punching, or forcing sex―is frequent and consistent over the length of the relationship. From that perspective, the idea that they “only use the amount of force necessary” doesn’t make sense.

But survivors tell me that their partners are often manipulative and violent in ways which do not include physical violence. No matter how an abuser’s behavior looks to an outsider, their tactics are deliberate. Like embarrassing a partner at a party or undermining their participation in religious activities. Or sabotaging a survivor’s connection with their child. Taking a child and disappearing for a couple of days is an effective way exert control over a partner. Also charming other people to get them on the abuser’s side, like the abusive partner I heard of who gratefully and coolly greeted law enforcement with “oh, I see you’re here to help me with my wife. She’s disoriented because she’s been in a car accident.”

Abuse can be pressuring a partner to have sex to prove their commitment to the relationship. Or asking a partner not to call friends or family because it interferes with their relationship―a subtle way to isolate someone. And if that doesn’t work, scaring friends or threatening a family member until the survivor returns to the relationship.

Any time we question a survivor―it doesn’t seem that bad, you say he doesn’t hit you, he doesn’t seem out of control―it gives the abusive person even more power. When we really listen to and believe a survivor’s experience, we take power away from the abuser. It’s one thing we all can do to make a difference for survivors and their children.

Nine things to know

Nueve cosas a saber

2 thoughts on “Necessary force”

  1. I don’t know how many out there can relate to this, but I am a 45 year old, divorced white male and have been alienated from my 7 year old son for nearly two years. I was married for 18 years to a rather attractive but extremely abusive alcoholic. She is the mother of my child, and for that reason alone I will always protect her and care about her. The tragedy is I never spoke to others about the violence she exhibited towards me. I was strangled, punched, diminished in front of friends and family, had my clientele sabotaged, and suffered years of jealousy games, lies, and confusing episodes of misdirected anger and fear.
    The reasons I gave myself for tolerating, keeping her behavior a secret and staying with her for so long have been extremely difficult to move past. For example, my personal values regarding family include the concept that our son deserves to havr both his parents in his life as much as possible. Also, the idea of “looking for evidence” to gain a legal advantage against my partner is something I would never have conceived possible for those who professed love for one another, before I was victim to this myself. But the most significant aspect of my resistance to doing something about it sooner, was simply ignorance. There were aspects to her past which I was never priviledged to know which is a large contribution to my sadness that she did not know she could confide in my empathy and compassion for the violence she experienced in her own childhood. Even though I always knew I did not deserve to be subjected to her violence, I found it ironic when I realized how unaware I was regarding the subtle influence, and long term impact our relationship had on my own behaviors.
    Eventually, my frustrations over her reticence to form an alliance with me towards mutual therapy, and family planning with our sons future in mind worsened while my confusion over prolonged unresolved conflicts.
    I tried to remain positive, and was thankful that I was at least able to redirect or son into a healthy understanding whenever he was exposed to any of our conflicts. But I was in denial of my own issues. I developed an escapist attitude and avoided conflicts, which became problematic when I was exposed to drugs. I could have just as easily obtained a membership at our local gym, and directed my mind into something more positive during my escapes. But the suffering got the best of me.
    What I believe many victims do not recognize, is the effects of an abuser lead to anger, blame, resentments, and unfortunatly, the victim is prone to developing their own abusive behavior patterns.
    In my experience, it was very difficult to recognize.
    When she left and took our son, she claimed I was a violent, abusive drug addict and needed to protect her child. I was never a perpetrator of violence of any kind, but I certainly became an addict. Ultimately, this destroyed our beautiful family.
    The problems got worse when a protection order was filed against me. I became extremely traumatized;. after so many years of being abused, it felt like insult upon I insult upon injury. Combined with a drug addiction, I became hopelessly tied to a life filled with despair.
    I still have not seen my son. I have three criminal charges against me because last summer, after a relapse during a very difficult recovery process, I had a weak moment and sent a few Facebook messages, violating the court order.
    Although these messages were entirely non threatening (mostly just begging sadly to see my son, asking for an amicable solution to the legal situation, and pleading that she lift the order so we can talk), I nonetheless was arrested, twice. Apparently, while travelling to see my parents in another state, there was a court date served and I missed that, creating a third violation.
    Now I am looking at up to three years in jail, fines, and could lose my home. I also have a cat, one of my only friends these days.
    My point is, if you feel you are a victim of Domestic Violence, regardless of your gender, do something about it now. Don’t be afraid. If you wait, or think you can handle it for the sake of your kids – or whatever you tell yourself, stop it. Things will ONLY get worse if you do nothing.
    Please. If you want to save your families, your relationships, your children’s future. Seek help now.
    I don’t recommend family court as a starting point either. They are there to facilitate divorce. The courts cannot acquire jurisdiction over your life unless there is a genuine adversity between two parties. If things are seriously dangerous, by all means get a protection order. But I would seriously consider a therapeutic option first. Get some help, and don’t be afraid to do that alone. U font have to tell anyone it’s because of your spouse or partner. Just get some professional therapy for YOU, and be honest with the practitioner. It’s the first step in getting your life, and everyone else’s around you on the right track.

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