carlin_don't_try_this_at_homeIf You're In An Abusive Relationship, DON'T Try This At Home!!!

As I was searching Dr. Phil's website the other day looking for a particular quote he made, I stumbled across a page entitled "Emotional Abuse: The Victim and Abuser" http://drphil.com/articles/article/19/ that nearly sent me into coronary arrest.

One of the most dangerous mistakes made by professionals who work within the social/human services, educational, therapeutic and family court systems is that they treat all problems that come before them in a fair and equitable manner, so as to be balanced and unbiased. Balance, fairness and equity are all noble principles when it comes to problem-solving and conflict resolution, but these should be completely INAPPLICABLE in situations of violence and abuse because by the very nature of such relationships, there is no (never has been and never will be any) balance, fairness and equity.

Approaching ALL situations in a balanced, fair and equitable way creates a "one size fits all" mindset that ends up getting victims - primarily women and children - killed. Cases of violence and abuse need to be approached APPROPRIATELY not EQUITABLY! What's the difference? Well, it's something like this:

Scenario I - It's Christmas time and you need to buy a gift for your children, a teen girl and twin sons. As a good parent, you want to give each child the same thing so there is no arguing, bickering, complaining or comparisons. The only thing your daughter's asking for is a specific make-up set; one twin asks for a specific Gameboy chip while the other is dying for a specific fishing lure. If you ensure that everyone gets the same thing, you're going to end up disappointing two of them if you buy 3 Gameboy chips or you'll end up disappointing all 3 of them if you end up buying matching sweaters instead.

You COULD set a dollar amount and work equitably that way (ie: a $20 limit for each gift) but what happens when your daughter's makeup set costs $24.99, the Gameboy chip just happens to be $20 but the fishing lure is worth only $9.99 on amazon.com and even with shipping it comes out to $16.32? You're NOT going to give your daughter the make-up with a bill for the extra $4.99 or give your son the $3.68 in change, right?) In this scenario, finding a fair, equitable and appropriate win-win solution is not only do-able, but is in everyone's best interests because there are no victims here - there's nothing negative to sway the scales - but what would you do if this were the case? (Same gift-giving scenario):

Scenario II - Twin #1 is soft-spoken, shy and introverted while Twin #2 is "all boy" - loud, rambunctious and energetic. Because Twin #2 has a tendency to get "carried away", you often have to come to the rescue of Twin #1 who ends up catching the brunt of Twin #2's antics. (Twin #1 has asked for the Gameboy chip for Christmas while Twin #2 wants the special fishing lure.) A week before Christmas you have both gifts purchased for each twin but one night Twin #2 gets angry and stomps on Twin #1's Gameboy in front of him, effectively breaking it.

Twin #1's Christmas gift is now completely useless, his Gameboy is gone and his brother is the one who destroyed it - that's a lot of pain and loss for Twin #1 to have to deal with, don't you think? In the meantime, Twin #2's fishing pole remains undisturbed, safe in his closet and he's knows that. Twin #2 MAY be feeling some regret/remorse OR he may be satisfied with himself for finally getting rid of his brother's annoying toy. Either way, how appropriate would it be FOR YOU to carry on like nothing's occurred - to just give the game chip and fishing lure to each respective twin for Christmas anyway?

What message would that send to each twin and whose behavior would it reward? Would your principle of fairness and equity be appropriate here? Would it bring justice to the wronged twin and show the other the error of his ways or would your principle of fairness and equity just condone abuse and excuse wrongdoing in the name of fairness and equity?

The bottom line here is you'll NEVER get to a win-win in Scenario II because you're starting from a place of win-lose; one twin is the victim in the case and the other is the aggressor - there's an imbalance from the start and that needs to be factored IN to the appropriate response, not factored out!

Back to Dr. Phil... Scenario I is like a win-win relationship absent of violence and abuse, while Scenario II represents a win-lose violent and/or abusive relationship - clearly the two are NOT the same, therefore they cannot be treated in the same manner. Now consider the "advice" Dr. Phil offers for emotionally abusive marriages:

TO THE VICTIM - "Take responsibility. You have played a role in setting up the relationship this way, and you must play a role in changing it". Is THAT what you'd tell Twin #1 with the broken Gameboy? Take responsibility for your role? Do you REALLY think Twin #1 had any control over his brother's choices or behaviors? The "problem" with abuse victims is that they're already willing to take responsibility for their actions AND the actions of their abusers! In contrast, the abusers typically refuse to take any responsibility for their own actions, instead choosing to blame the victim or other outside factors.

Dr. Phil's 2nd piece of advice - "There are no victims, only volunteers". Yea, and on the morning of 9/11 when The WTC (World Trade Center) employees went to work they volunteered for their fates, right? Or hey, they should've known better then to get a job at The WTC in the first place because couldn't they tell the place was destined for a terrorist attack? And if they knew the place could be attacked by terrorists - cause there WAS that parking garage incident a few years before - why'd they stay at their jobs? Why didn't they just leave? (See how absolutely absurd this all is? But it gets better...)

"Don't go along to get along" - LOVE this one: next time your abuser's escalating where everyone has to "walk on eggshells" trying to avoid the trigger that'll set him off, don't go along to get along! Dr. Phil says "Peace at any price is no peace at all". If your abuser is escalating, I don't need to tell you to "watch your step or it could be your last " - you KNOW it! Besides this attitude could cost you the custody of your children once you've fled because the family court system WANTS you to be "a friendly parent" and to "go along to get along"; not doing so will label you as a high-conflict litigant at best or as a danger to your kids at worst.

This one by far is the most dangerous and is why I said DON'T try this at home: "You need to sit down with your partner, look him/her in the eyes, and tell him/her that you are taking a stand. You will not stay in the relationship if the abuse continues." NEVER EVER TELL YOUR ABUSER "I'M LEAVING YOU". Those three words have probably been the last three words ever said by homicide victims killed by their partners. The "Thou Shalt Not" of domestic violence is "You will not leave me". Once you cross that line, it's no holds barred - DO NOT find this out the hard way, PLEASE!

Dr. Phil's next suggestion "From there, begin to negotiate" is just ridiculous: you cannot bargain with a batterer! There is no such thing as true negotiating with an abuser because negotiation = "I'll listen to you and then you'll do it my way". The rules of abusive relationships look NOTHING like those belonging to healthy relationships! (Wouldn't it be nice if Dr. Phil knew that?)

And his last piece of advice for all you victims out there: "Watch yourself to make sure you don't fall back into the victim role" (cause you know how tempting it is to do that, right? Not that YOUR ABUSER has anything to do with your abuse...)

I'll close with MY own advice: If you're in an abusive relationship, you know your abuser the best - don't let ANYONE ever try to tell or convince you that they know better then you when it comes to your abuser. ALWAYS trust your instincts and go with your gut: better safe then sorry, better to be embarrassed then dead and as a dear colleague once told me "It's not paranoia if there really is someone out to get you". Be safe everyone ~

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