A frustrating thing about dealing with someone who has been emotionally abused, is that when the abuser has been doing a thorough job, the victim is completely paralyzed . He or she has no self-esteem left, and when that is coupled with a somewhat fanatical worship of the abuser, it adds a particularly pathetic twist to the situation.
How can the observer who wants to help cut through years of brainwashing to instil a sense of value and hope in the victim? How can you cultivate a vision of the future that allows them to understand that they will be able to rise above their present tragedy to create a new, and possibly better life?
When the victim of abuse is a man, he is even more likely to blame himself for his abuse than women. According to a pamphlet by Public Health Agency of Canada, “Having been abused by a woman, the men felt that they had failed to achieve culturally defined masculine characteristics, such as independence, strength, toughness and self-reliance. As a result, the men felt emasculated and marginalized, and tended not to express their fears, ask for help, or even discuss details of their violent experiences.57 During the interviews, the abused men repeatedly expressed shame and embarrassment.” (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/publications/mlintima-eng.php) The article further goes on to say that the men are often not believed, or that their abuse experience is minimized. Statistics in this article report that between 12 and 25% of men are routinely abused by their intimate partner, either emotionally or physically. I suspect many more don’t even recognise or acknowledge that the anger and shame that is their daily experience with their partner actually is abusive. It becomes a little like living in George Orwell’s 1984 where love is hate.
How are these men supposed to move on? If people are mentally strong and independent, they can recognize and move out of a toxic relationship. They can accept that divorce is a reasonable alternative to the demeaning behavior, but if they are weakened in some way, through illness, depression, or Stockholm syndrome*, what do they do then?
There are a lot of walking wounded in our communities who need hope. Thank heavens for the professionals who can help, and for loving hearts who try their best to touch those who need support, despite how frustrating it is dealing with those who are unwilling to help themselves.
*PS- do click on the Stockholm Syndrome link. It goes to an excellent article called “Love and the Stockholm Syndrome: The mystery of loving an abuser.”