I wrote the following article for a local newspaper at the request of Davie Domestic Violence Services, but it was rejected by the director for political reasons just before its publication.
This is being written in lieu of October being Domestic Violence awareness month. Whether occurring in homes or elsewhere, this is an era in which a person needs not gander far before encountering abusers and victims. We are surrounded by abuse to such a degree that it has become a common topic with the news media. For instance, there was a recent case receiving national media attention in Palmdale, California concerning a sixteen-year-old girl having her arm broken by school security for dropping a piece of cake, and the case of a college student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who suffered a pile-on of police and a subsequent taser attack (after he was already subdued and helpless). The latter attack was apparently done in reprisal for his having asked some tough questions of Senator Kerry. Videos of these incidents are wildly popular on the Internet as outrage about them grows.
It is important to note that the majority of law enforcement officers are reasonably good citizens, but the exceptions provide us with perfect examples of classic abuser behavior. These incidents are far from isolated, and recent nationwide media coverage has featured video footage of several schools in which children were beaten by the very authority figures who were bound to protect them. The signs are significant regardless of the form abuse takes, when we consider the following. Despite the angle used to view abuse, the very basis behind it consistently remains power. The abusive authorities involved undoubtedly sought an occupation built upon yielding power over others. It is unfortunate that those who crave power the most tend to deserve it the least, and abuse it the most: whether the abusers are law enforcement, politicians, parents, spouses, school officials, or even nations.
Abusive personalities are most commonly created by feelings of powerlessness stemming from experiences in early childhood with over-controlling parents. It is the reason why abuse is a pattern typically repeated throughout generations of families. The abuser's sense of powerlessness is wrought by his misguided parents, and it remains permanently unless there is intervention. An abuser's perceived lack of control in his environment causes him to develop controlling tendencies in an attempt to compensate; and this is especially noticeable in his interpersonal relationships. His controlling tendencies eventually become an overwhelming drive for more power over others who are the closest to him. These are his vain attempts at escaping his ceaseless sense of impotence. He often literally loses control at this stage, which ironically is his greatest fear. The great cruelty of abuse is that there are usually at least two victims: with it having grown from the seeds planted by child abuse decades earlier.
Because of his past, the abuser's ability to meaningfully relate to others is fundamentally crippled. While being emotionally crippled, he nonetheless feels one emotion constantly and with the greatest of intensity: jealousy. He may be glib and superficial in the public scene, but the duality of his personality is revealed in private. He lives in a polarized world consisting of enemies and allies. While I contend that love is the opposite of power, but to him, love is power. This is what his parents taught him, after all. Love is his weapon to guilt his allies into bending to his will. His love is shown in protecting the people he loves, even when he protects them in ways destructive to their greater well being, and against their wishes. His every response is foremost about maintaining predictability and control, and they are therefore a matter of instilling obedience. In his quest to maintain control of his environment, the whims and ideas of others just get in the way of his making the world right. He is a master manipulator, because he has spent his life learning that controlling others means manipulating them. He has an extreme form of extroversion whereby he is so deficient in 'soul', (for lack of a better term) that his personal sense of fulfillment must be measured in those around him. Others must be controlled for their own good, in a manner akin to the maintenance of personal property. As the author Judith Herman has noted: his victim is merely an extension of himself; like an appendage. This compares to the way in which people may become sentimentally attached to material objects, or the same psychological way which we feel an emotional attachment to our own limbs. To an abuser, a separation from, or defiance from his object of obsession is as maddening to him as it would be for us if suddenly one of our arms took on a defiant will of its own. His panicked responses to simple disagreements within his inner circle are incomprehensible for most of us. He is everywhere, and you already know at least a dozen people like him.
Some abusers can be redeemed, and thus saved from themselves. This path is very difficult and humbling because it requires that he not only recognize the problem, but also face with painful honesty why he has such a reactionary drive. It is only through self-understanding and acceptance that an abuser can change. It may involve the prospect of forgiving himself or the parents who made him that way. Foremost, the desire to change must exist in the abuser. Traditional methods of helping abusers to recover through forced therapy and rehabilitation have rendered entirely unsuccessful results. These methods merely fuel an abuser's sense of powerlessness and personal violation more, leading to additional problems with rage in his relationships. Thus, incarceration is likely to merely transform him from an abuser into a monster. In the worst abuse cases, domestic violence and child protective service agencies save lives, and provide last resort assistance for victims, but it is ever important that they keep in perspective the dire consequences of unnecessary legal interventions.
As with the standard approaches toward treating abusers, the same can be said for the conventional empowerment method of helping victims. It regularly succeeds in the self-defeating task of creating an abuser out of a victim. It is yet another case of love misguidedly being replaced with power, as its very name betrays. Empowerment is a victim's reactionary response to pervasive feelings of powerlessness at the hands of a controller. It is a pathologically unhealthy philosophy embraced by feminists; replacing fear with hatred, and exchanging one type of lopsided relatedness for another, especially in regard to the opposite sex. It often involves the highly destructive suppression of the more submissive feminine qualities, depriving relationships of their warmth, color, intimacy, gender roles, and natural equilibrium. Whenever a relationship has someone empowered, one partner is an abuser and the other is a victim. It is a bogus cure which perpetuates the disease. No healthy relationship is ever based upon power. As is the core theme of my book: love is the opposite of power. Most of the so-called abuse 'survivors' have been empowered by the complete wrongfulness taught in current books -- and if these people were indeed healthy and recovered, then they would not feel such a need to constantly remind themselves, and everyone else, that they are survivors. True recovery comes from the self-understanding of painfully and honestly appraising what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. This is impossible for most abuse survivors, because like their antagonists, they are too busy looking for blame in their partners to ever be truly honest about themselves. Forgiveness is not always easy, but without forgiveness, they tend to perpetually live in their self-imposed hells. Empowered people are those who are still locked in their former power structures, for it is still about 'winning' against their abusers, and proving that their abusers no longer have any power. Of course, this obsession only proves that the abusers do in fact still have a power over them. Moving on means: moving on. In flashbacks and dreams, victims are reminded that they were a part of something which went terribly wrong, and something needing serious reflection by them. These are not merely cruel tricks of the mind. They are the painful manifestations of victim's guilt (even if undeserved). More often than not, these fuel rage leading victims down the same abuse path again as the cycle repeats. They never understand why they are perpetually attracted to so many of the bad guys, who initially seemed so good.
The recovery process for both abusers and victims is remarkably similar, as both cover the harsh realizations which include their true roles in the relationship, and the unconscious drives which ultimately led them into such dastardly situations. The exceptions to what I have written are the sociopathic abusers and ritualistic abusers. The first category entails those who were born without the capability for a conscience, or at least without the emotions necessary to truly empathize with the suffering of others, and the latter category of people willingly harms others (usually children) to satisfy pagan gods (in some cases the Devil himself) in religious rites. Both these categories of people do exist, and much more so than most of us would like to believe. The prisons are full of them.