I am a survivor-- I have survived abuse from my childhood, marriage and the strangulation of a short term relationship. The number one question people ask is why women like me go back to the abuser. I had learned by the third man to walk away, but in my 20 year marriage, I separated from him seven times; yes, seven times before I learned to walk away for good. Instead of looking at this from the woman's point of view, I want to look at it from the man's point of view....how do they get the women to stay.
How do abusive men get the women to come back to them time and again when the women suffer such abuse?
From the time we are infants, we are programmed to attach to our caregivers...our very survival depends on it. Our food, shelter and even love are dependent on our caregivers providing that for us.
Abusers are able to capitalize on this basic survival need all humans have, to bond with those who provide for our every need, our shelter, our emotional needs, our physical needs, even our very lives. They slowly take away the ability for the person to independently take care of themselves or to think they can get their needs met through family or friends.
There are four elements or conditions the abuser must control in order to make his victim his domain:
1. A perceived threat to the victim's existence, and the victim believes the the perpetrator will carry out the threats
2. The perpetrator gives small acts of kindness to the victim...these acts of kindness may be in the form of jewelry (known as apology jewelry) telling the victim they will not hit them tonight even though dinner is burned, or taking out to dinner for a rare night out on the town. These acts of kindness are given in the context of terror (the victim knows the perpetrator may turn on them at any moment.)
3. The perpetrator isolates the victim. This happens over time and by several means...the victim knows that if family or friends are part of their life, their lives are also in danger; that by telling family what is going on, the victim's life is in peril, and the victim comes to believe the perpetrator has complete control over life and death.
4. The perpetrator is able to make the victim believe they do not have the capacity to escape.
When asked victims of abuse, 'Why did you stay so long?' Most will say something like, 'I know it doesn't make sense, I just loved him.' Yet, it is in the perpetrator's behavior that we find the answer. The perpetrator sets up the victim through a series of constant threats followed by acts of kindness. The perpetrator will then cycle through the threats (followed by actual violence or emotional abuse) then followed by more acts of kindness.
The victim goes through cycles of having their self-esteem shredded followed by feeling loved. This causes an imbalance of power called Trauma Bonding. This causes a hostile environment emotionally, physically and mentally, or a constant state of survival mode known as cognitive dissonance is set up to help the victim to survive.
When a person is in a trauma situation they have three options, fight, flight or freeze. The victims in these situations have learned to freeze out of fear. Fear is the number one weapon of the perpetrators. When we are faced with fear, we often regress and the perpetrator uses this regression to his advantage and the victim is often seen as infantile, she takes her perpetrator back, and is immobilized to inaction, and becomes powerless. The perpetrator is then in the position of parent and the victim in the role of child.
It is important to know the patterns of perpetrators, so that women can recognize them early on and escape and family and friends can better understand why it is so difficult for victims to escape.
Narcissist and Stockholm syndrome