Monday, 23 June 2014

The abusive man in arguments by Lundy Bancroft.

Picture taken from
I’ve mentioned the book "Why does he do that" in my blog before. It’s the book I would recommend everyone read whether you’ve been abused or not, it really is so informative and helpful. On the Womens Aid survivors forum many of the ladies refer to it’s author as Saint Lundy because he pinpoints exactly the dynamics of an abusive relationship that are so hard to explain.

When the abuse has been emotional it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to explain, when your abuser tells everyone that you abused him and twists reality to paint himself as the victim it can be tough to describe what actually happened and how just because you argued with him it doesn’t mean it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. How many abuse victims have heard “you two argue all the time” or “you two wind each other up something chronic” or “you two are as bad as each other” over the years. I know I have. It often leaves you wondering if you really were abused, or even if he was right and you were the abusive one.

So today I want to share with you a snippet of the book from pages 138- 141.  In this section, Lundy Bancroft hits the nail on the head about how an argument with an abusive man works and how it leaves the victim feeling. For me this was a near daily occurrence, it’s no wonder I ended up feeling a little crazy.

I will begin by examining in detail an argument between an abusive man and his partner, the kind I hear about routinely from my clients and their partners. Jesse and Bea are walking along in their town. Jesse is sullen and clearly annoyed. 
BEA: What’s going on with you? I don’t understand what you’re upset about.
JESSE: I’m not upset; I just don’t feel like talking right now. Why do you always have to read something into it? Can’t I just be a little quiet sometimes? Not everybody likes to talk, talk, talk all the time just because you do
BEA: I don’t talk, talk, talk all the time. What do you mean by that? I just want to know what’s bothering you.
JESSE: I just finished telling you, nothings bothering me… and give me a break that you don’t talk all the time. When we were having dinner with my brother and his wife, I couldn’t believe how you went on and on about your stupid journalism class. You’re forty years old, for Christ sake; the world isn’t excited about your fantasies of being famous. Grow up a little.
BEA: Fantasies of being famous? I’m trying to get a job, Jesse, because the travel agency jobs have all moved downtown. And I wasn’t going on about it. They were interested; they were asking me a lot of questions about it- that’s why we were on that subject for a while.
JESSE: Oh yeah they were real interested. They were being polite to you because you’re so full of yourself. You’re so naïve you can’t even tell when you’re being patronised.
BEA: I don’t believe this. That dinner was almost two weeks ago. Have you been brewing about it all this time?
JESSE: I don’t brew, Bea, you’re the one that brews. You love to get us confused. I’ll see you later. I’m really not in the mood for this shit.
BEA: In the mood for what shit?? I haven’t done anything! You’ve had it in for me since I arrived to meet you!
JESSE: You’re yelling at me, Bea. You know I hate being yelled at. You need to get help; your emotions just fly off the handle. I’ll see you later.
BEA: Where are you going?
JESSE: I’ll walk home thank you.You can take the car. I’d rather be alone.
BEA: It’s going to take you more than half an hour to walk home and it’s freezing today.
JESSE: Oh, Now suddenly you care about me so much. Up yours. Bye (walks off) 
The lives of abused women are full of these kinds of exchanges. Jesse didn’t call Bea any degrading names; he didn’t yell; he didn’t hit her or threaten her. Bea will be in a tough spot when the time comes to explain to a friend how upset she is, because Jesse’s behaviour is hard to describe. What can she say? That he’s sarcastic? That he holds onto things? That he’s overly critical? A friend would respond “Well that sounds hard, but I wouldn’t call it abuse” Yet, as Jesse walks away, Bea feels as if she has been slapped in the face.
We will first look at what Jesse is doing and then examine how his thinking works. The first point to illuminate is:
Therapists often try to work with an abuser by analysing his responses to disagreements and trying to get him to handle conflicts differently. But such an approach misses the point: His abusiveness was what caused the tension to begin with.
Jesse uses an array of conversational tactics as most abusers do:

  • He denies being angry, although he obviously is, and instead of dealing with what is bothering him, he channels his energy into criticising Bea about something else.
  • He insults, belittles, and patronises Bea in multiple ways, including saying that she likes to talk all the time and has fantasies of becoming famous, stating that she should “grow up” and telling her that she accuses him of stewing over things when it’s actually her.
  • He tells her that she is unaware that other people look down on her and don’t take her seriously and calls her “naïve”
  • He criticizes her for raising her voice in response to his stream of insults
  • He tells her that she is mistreating him  
  • He stomps off and plays the victim by putting himself in the position of having to take a long, cold walk home.

Bea is now left miserable- feeling like a scratching post that a cat has just sharpened its claws on. Part of why she is so shaken up by this experience is that she never knows when one of these verbal assaults is going to happen or what sets it off. On a different day she might have met Jesse to take him home and had a pleasant conversation with him about his work day." 

You can get more information about Lundy Bancrofts books here If you can read only one book on this subject do read "Why does he do that" it's incredibly eye opening. 

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