Understanding the Victims of Spousal Abuse by Frank M. Ochberg, M.D. at Gift from Within
Spouse abuse has historic roots. Females have been bought and sold and bartered, ritually branded and mutilated, denied education, land ownership, means of travel, and are not yet full partners in owning and controlling the major institutions of this world. In a political sense, the female gender is engaged in a long march from slavery, still eclipsed in the shadow of patriarchal dominance. When parity in power is sought, too often the seeker is punished. Behind closed doors the punishment may be swift, explosive and brutal…
… not every therapist is equipped to help the woman who wants to change the habits that helped her endure abuse. In fact, many therapists make matters worse. They do this by announcing their skepticism. They do this by withholding support…
Therefore three caveats are offered for those seeking counseling:
1. Shop Around. The first or second counselor may not be right for you. This relationship will be very important. You should feel comfortable and you should be sure your counselor is comfortable with you.
2. Change Counselors If You Must. Early in a therapeutic relationship you may feel betrayed or insulted. Since sensitivity to rejection is often a problem for persons dealing with interpersonal issues in therapy, you deserve a counselor who you can trust. If a counselor cannot deal with your anger, you might be better off elsewhere .
3. Endure Once You Find the Right Counselor. Those who are out of an abusive relationship, but struggling to find a sense of personal worth, consistency and security, will often have stormy times in therapy. Your job is not to please your therapist, but your therapist will be pleased if you reach your goal of independence.
In sum, spouse abuse happens because our so called civilization is not that civilized and men get away with beating women. Women stay with these men for several reasons, including fear, isolation and unusual forms of love. Leaving is dangerous for many, difficult for most. A common long term consequence of abuse is an interpersonal and intrapersonal condition that includes depression, rejection sensitivity, anger and difficulty with trust. Counseling for victims should be practical, multidisciplinary and geared to security needs. Therapy for those who are safe but not fully “whole” is a longer, more demanding process.
Therapy is not the answer; we must do more than treat the wounded. Spouse abuse is a long standing, entrenched problem. Fortunately, there are experienced, effective survivors committed to changing this cruel aspect of human history. We who treat and teach can do no better than to join hands with them.
For more on women and the Stockholm Syndrome see the free online book Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men’s violence, and Women’s Lives by Dee L. R. Graham