Why do women, especially in America, put up with the outrage of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse? One main reason is absolute obedience to the messages of childhood, when they were first maltreated. They blame themselves for the abuse and therefore truly believe they deserve no better, a new author asserts.
According to Dr. Heyward Ewart, the greater the abuse, the greater is the loyalty to the punisher.
The "Stockholm Syndrome," observed at the end of World War II, is mysterious but very real. When the allied troops came to free the prisoners of war, when the fences were down and the captors in custody, some prisoners refused to leave the camp.
They would huddle and resist being moved. It was found that the captors who had been most cruel, most sadistic, and most forceful had won the greatest loyalty of their captives.
Thus, there is this dependable equation: the greater the abuse, the greater the obedience.
It is Ewart's premise that the normal way for both children and adults to react to abuse is to obey the message it conveys. Herein lies the reason that victims are so resistant to change, even when competent therapy is provided. To disobey the message of the tormentor is akin to being a traitor.
Another factor is that terrifying abusers live as phantoms in the minds of their victims. Many an adult woman, or man, feels that the original abuser, and often the present abuser, is "living in their head." This almost magical presence in the mind of a victim is sometimes so acutely felt that it has a voice of its own that can be confused as a hallucination.
The communication is always negative and condemning and is continuously repeating the original message that "you are no good; you are not a real person; you dare not try to do better."
The difference between this kind of "voice" and hallucinations is that the former is more in line with a constant flashback, or memory, so vivid that the abuser can almost be heard; however, the victim knows that the voice is a reliving experience.
Hallucinations, as they occur in schizophrenia, are believed by the patient to be as real as any other truth, Ewart explains.
The child, or "true self," as he names it, can be thought of as having a semi-permeable layer of protection around it. Such might also be thought of as a boundary, or a wall, enclosing the self. The abuser, by attacking the personhood of his victim, continuously assaults this barrier until at last he breaks all the way through, "sets up residence" inside, and feeds a "false self," he says.
Prisoners of war experience the same sensation through brainwashing. The barrier of the self is weakened by the infliction of excruciating pain that continues beyond endurance. Combined with sleep and food deprivation, the pain is applied with dehumanizing insults, in some way implanting the same message, no matter what words are used: "You are nobody."
The brainwashing is complete when the tormentor has broken through and has begun to live inside the mind of the victim. This is the nature and the power of child abuse.
It is brainwashing of the first magnitude, accomplished with greater ease because the subject is a child, without power. When done effectively, brainwashing conditions the victim to accept the role of captive permanently.
Hence, in domestic violence, we do not have a new occurrence of a destructive relationship resulting from a poor choice or a mistake that anyone could make. We have a continuation of the same earlier brainwashing with one abuser continuing where the other left off.
Other reasons that battered, insulted, overly controlled, or humiliated women do not leave include the following, according to Ewart:
1. Hope that the partner will change.
2. Partially believing that trying harder will make a difference.
3. Fear of what the partner may do in retaliation (a well-grounded fear, for which the victim needs protection).
4. Not knowing what to do about the children.
5. Lack of money.
6. Having no place to go.
7. Not knowing whom to call.
8. Thinking nothing can be done.
9. Fear of living alone, without support.
10. Thinking the problem isn't that bad, after all.
11. Feeling the police and the courts won't help enough or fast enough (true in many cities).
12. Religious and moral convictions.
13. Fear of the unknown.
A critical item to be added to the above list is that many women are not conscious of the fact that they are in an abusive relationship. Their life experience, with the internalized messages that define their self image, prevents them from recognizing how preposterous their situation is.
Dr. Heyward Ewart has served victims of violence and other abuse for over 20 years. If you a victim, survivor, or professional, get unique information instantly at http://www.child-to-adult-victim.com. A book and free tests are right there for upload.