DISCLAIMER: The writer of this rant has no credentials to speak of.
did a show this morning about a battered woman whose son actually
videotaped her husband abusing her. For an hour. That, by itself was
astonishing. The creep finally got a LONG jail sentence, longer than
most of those buttwipes. But she was with this guy for twenty-four years before
the light went on. Not that I don't understand the mechanism that makes
these women stay, but sheesh.
Okay, I need a dose of empathy. Ooops, fresh out.
I've mentioned more times than anyone cares to hear that I once worked
as a volunteer crisis counselor and advocate for battered women. I
lasted six years. The legacy I left behind is an event which happens
every October 1st on Oak Street Beach in Chicago. At dusk 3000
luminaria are lit to memorialize the women who are killed each year by
their abusers. No one knows the actual numbers. And no one counts the
women who commit suicide because of abuse.
I quit finally, because I got so tired of the same ol' same ol' from the
abused women who wouldn't leave and endangered their children. Because
they love the guy. Or because law enforcement's hands are
tied. One cop summed up the problem with what may be the best solution, ". . .have a family member
dump them in the river."
I was also tired of the "feminist" bullshit that preached we shouldn't
rescue battered women because they had to rescue themselves. They had
to leave on their own. What a crock.
I talked to a lot of women who couldn't leave for financial reasons,
not to mention fear of losing their lives, since most are killed when
they leave. It was clear to me fairly quickly that what is needed
is a witness protection program that helps these women and their
children escape and sets them up in a new community way far away.
During the last year I was an advocate, I worked with a flamboyant.
redheaded, media savvy women's advocate named Susan Milano, whose police
officer father was an abuser. I think he finally killed her mom and
then killed himself. She worked with a network of people who
spirited battered women away and set them up with new identities. I
finally realized she was a pathological liar -- not uncommon for the
children of abusers, since they learn to lie about what's going on in
the family from an early age. But she lied about something that
caused me considerable embarrassment professionally, so, after I called
her on it, I cut her loose.
My point in all this was that during the time I spent on the phones
talking to the men as well as the women, I discovered the brownout
effect. A lot of the guys who beat up women have no memory of their
rages. One guy told me he felt like he was watching himself at the end
of a long tunnel.
Hmmmm. What's that about I wondered. Aha, a multiple
personality. The monster emerges overtaking the normal person who
has little or no memory of the event. They don't call abusers Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for nothing. Or for today's exercise, The Incredible Hulk.
I never found anyone who had cracked the code about what creates these
guys, except for lip service to cultural reasons or the lessons learned
from watching an abusive father beat up their mother.
There had to be more I thought. Because you don't change personalities
and rage against the person you purport to love without a more powerful
internal mechanism to set it off.
Then, after a year or so as a civilian again, a guy I knew contacted me
because he needed to talk to someone about his obsessive love for a
woman who dumped him. It seems that all his friends were tired of
listening to his whining.
So I listened to him obsess for a couple of hours every Sunday night
for as long as I could stand it. He was pathetic and beating a dead
horse, but, meanwhile, I was fascinated by the complete one sidedness
of it. The me me me-ness of it. It was all about him. His dreams for
their future together. His fantasies about the dumbest stuff. That she
was bi-polar and needed therapy. His almost stepping across the line
Yo -- she's gone and she ain't coming back. What is it about a dead relationship that you don't understand, you necromancer?
But in his mind, the relationship was alive. I realized he needed
than talking to me on the phone. So I pushed for therapy. He
managed to find a therapist who said he could help him get her back.
Even though she was with someone else. I almost laughed out loud at
that one. He never got her back by the way. She's married to the
However, it was something he said that made me realize his obsession
for her was like a two year old toddler's obsession for the first
important love of his life -- mom. That's a very good thing when you're a toddler. But I
noticed his loss was the same as a small child's pain and anxiety when
the parent he loves more than life itself leaves him. Handled badly, that can become be a very troublesome thing.
I could imagine how that childhood despair would grow to white hot intensity as an
adult -- with testoterone thrown in. The toddler anger becomes Incredible
Hulk rage or obsession that can turn into murder -- without some kind of intervention.
A tantrum magnified by size and muscle.
So I asked him -- did your parents ever leave you for long stretches when you were a toddler?
Yes. Several times. To vacation with friends. And he hated the memory
of it. And lots of people don't have such early memories so it must
have been powerful.
I even mentioned this phenomenon to my father, the psychoanalyst, who
actually found a case history and a short description of a disorder
that seemed to describe the problem in one of his myriad books. I was
pleased that he gave my idea so much validation. But that's another
My point is this -- and I'll use the Unabomber as an example -- be very
careful about leaving your little ones for long periods at a time.
Parents often seem very cavalier about leaving children under two so Mom and Dad can spend a
week in Vegas. Or not preparing toddlers for a separation. Bad
A little boy's future wife may pay with her life when that helpless toddler rage against being
abandoned by a loved one morphs into an adult. The jealousy, the need
to have her to himself, which isolates her from others, the need to
control her -- in my experience, these are often behaviors seen in toddlers.
Extended families can probably help prevent the anguish that separation from the
primary caretaker can cause. When a toddler has bonded with aunts,
uncles, grandmas and grandpas and, in this day and age, nannies, the
anxiety doesn't have to be so worrisome.
The Unabomber's mom had to leave him in the hospital for months when he
was two years old. She wasn't allowed to hold him or touch him, except
to view him through a window.
And we wonder why he wanted to blow people up.
It's just my opinion, but I think abusers are simply variations on the
Unabomber -- only they are socialized enough to marry and use their
spouses as stand-ins for venting their buried rage.
Thank you, you may resume your regularly scheduled lives.