Grooming Women for Battering
It’s not often – if ever – that you can witness a man grooming a woman to accept battering. We now have a visual record of how one man attempted it. And it may help to warn women away from potential abusers.
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a grad student at Ohio University, had planned to study the stigma of being an ex-convict. While at a local Corn Festival she spotted a tattoo-covered man who was gently cuddling a cute little girl. She approached and asked him and his girlfriend if she could photograph them over a period of time for her project, and they agreed.
Our photographer had met the couple only about a month after they’d gotten together. Two and a half months later she photographed Shane as he battered Maggie in their home. And she had already amassed a photographic record of how he had groomed her for the abuse. You can see the pictures here.
Batterers know that if they give in to their craving to beat their partners too soon the women will leave. So they have two immediate projects 1) push for quick involvement and 2) make her fall in love hard and fast so that she will stay after the beatings.
Shane’s charm offensive began while he was in prison, where he called Maggie every day. As soon as he was released they began dating and within weeks Maggie and her two kids, ages two and four, had moved in with him. A month later Shane got a huge neck tattoo which practically shouted MAGGIE. Any man who would get a tattoo like that must surely be both smitten and committed!
Abusers also keep score of emotional debts owed them (while ignoring those they owe). Altering his body for Maggie created a huge debt. As Amanda Marcotte put it,
“But I got a tattoo for you!” Translation: I altered my very body “for” you, and that is a massive debt that you can pretty much never pay, so you have to put up with my crap forever.
In more emotional blackmail Shane spent plenty of time complaining that Maggie paid more attention to her kids than to him.
Her four-year-old son, Kayden, took the brunt of his resentment even as he lavished attention on his cute two-year-old sister, Memphis. Maybe Shane thought he could release some of his abusive cravings on him while he repressed his desire to beat the boy’s mother. So keep in mind that batterers are often cruel to animals and children.
Batterers also try to isolate their victims, leaving them without help or support. So characteristically, Shane moved Maggie and her kids far away from family and friends within months of beginning their relationship. Moving everyone in with him may have also created a sense of “debt owed” and dependence on him.
But with a criminal record and facial tattoos Shane had difficulty finding work, so he couldn’t really afford to support the family. Abusers can come from any class but men who feel disempowered sometimes beat up their partners partly because it gives them a sense of empowerment in those moments when they are raging and pummeling a smaller, physically weaker person. And Shane’s difficulty finding work may have created a sense of powerlessness.
Once Maggie had fallen in love and was isolated and dependent, Shane only needed an excuse to beat her.
Jealousy works especially well for this trigger. The whirlwind courtship had already marked the relationship as passionate, and so administering a beating over jealous love promotes the storyline that he only did it because he loves her sooo much. And that makes her more likely to stay afterwards.
So Maggie and Shane went to a bar where Maggie became jealous over some flirtations and left. After a friend drove him home, Shane became enraged that Maggie had abandoned him. He then turned the jealous accusation around. Furious that one of his friends had flirted with Maggie, he claimed that she had betrayed him.
As they fought he told her to choose between getting beaten in the kitchen or going to the basement where they could talk privately (they were staying at a friend’s home).
Any police officer will tell you to never go to a second, more isolated location where something more brutal is likely to happen. Maggie was smart enough not to do that.
Hearing her mother’s screams, two-year-old Memphis ran to her mother’s side. Maybe because Shane had always been so sweet to Memphis, she felt she could protect her mom. So the little girl screamed, stomped her feet and finally put her body in between the two of them.
But the abuse didn’t end until a housemate called the police. Shane told the officers that he was just trying to keep Maggie from leaving the house with the children while she was drunk.
When that didn’t work he cried out, “Please, Maggie, I love you, don’t let them take me, tell them I didn’t do this,” apparently hoping that his “love” would persuade her to save him.
Often, it works. And it nearly did here as the officer had to coax the truth from Maggie and then talk her into signing a protection order and getting a medical exam.
“I don’t want to get him in trouble,” she wept.
“You aren’t getting him into trouble. He got himself into trouble,” the officer assured her. “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”
What’s not typical is that Maggie left. She now lives in Alaska with her children’s father. Maybe she left because she had someplace to go. Maybe the publicity and the pictures made it difficult to deny the gravity of the abuse.
Most women stay, thinking that he will change. It usually takes months or even years of violent outbursts to see that it is about him and not about her, to see that he will not change, and to see that love is nowhere to be found.
When women decide to leave they should first call a domestic abuse hotline to make plans. And then go without warning. Because leaving is the most dangerous time.
800-799-SAFE (TDD: 800-787-3224)
SIGNS OF AN ABUSER
Keep in mind that not every batterer has all the signs. But here are some things to look out for:
Before an abuser starts physically assaulting his victim, he typically demonstrates his abusive tactics through certain behaviors. The following are five major warning signs and some common examples:
Abusers can be very charming. In the beginning, they may seem to be Prince Charming or a Knight in Shining Armor. He can be very engaging, thoughtful, considerate and charismatic. He may use that charm to gain very personal information about her. He will use that information later to his advantage.
For example; he will ask if she has ever been abused by anyone. If she says, “yes”, he will act outraged that anyone could treat a woman that way. Then when he becomes abusive, he will tell her no one will believe her because she said that before and it must be her fault or two people would not have hit her.
Another example; he may find out she experimented with drugs in her past. He will then threaten that if she tells anyone about the abuse he will report her as a drug abuser and she will lose her children. The threat to take away her children is one of the most common threats abusers use to maintain power and control over their victims.
Abusers isolate their victims geographically and socially. Geographic isolation includes moving the victim from her friends, family and support system (often hundreds of miles); moving frequently in the same area and/or relocating to a rural area.
Social isolation usually begins with wanting the woman to spend time with him and not her family, friends or co-workers. He will then slowly isolate her from any person who is a support to her. He dictates whom she can talk to; he tells her she cannot have contact with her friends or family.
Jealousy is a tool abusers use to control the victim. He constantly accuses her of having affairs. If she goes to the grocery store, he accuses her of having an affair with the grocery clerk. If she goes to the bank, he accuses her of having an affair with the bank teller. Abusers routinely call their victims whores or sluts.
The goal of emotional abuse is to destroy the victim’s self-esteem. He blames her for his violence, puts her down, calls her names and makes threats against her. Over time, she no longer believes she deserves to be treated with respect and she blames herself for his violence. For some survivors of domestic violence, the emotional abuse may be more difficult to heal from than the physical abuse.
Abusers are very controlled and very controlling people. In time, the abuser will control every aspect of the victim’s life: where she goes, how she wears her hair, what clothes she wears, whom she talks to. He will control the money and access to money. Abusers are also very controlled people. While they appear to go into a rage or be out of control we know they are very much in control of their behavior.
The following are the reasons we know his behaviors are not about anger and rage:
- He does not batter other individuals – the boss who does not give him time off or the gas station attendant that spills gas down the side of his car. He waits until there are no witnesses and abuses the person he says he loves.
- If you ask an abused woman, “can he stop when the phone rings or the police come to the door?” She will say “yes”. Most often when the police show up, he is looking calm, cool and collected and she is the one who may look hysterical. If he were truly “out of control” he would not be able to stop himself when it is to his advantage to do so.
- The abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where the bruises and marks will not show. If he were “out of control” or “in a rage” he would not be able to direct or limit where his kicks or punches land.
Here are some more signs:
1. Jealousy of your time with co-workers, friends and family.
2. Controlling behavior. (Controls your comings and goings and your money.)
3. Isolation. (Cuts you off from all supportive resources such as telephone pals, colleagues at work and close family members.)
4. Blames others for his problems. (Unemployment, quarrels – everything is “your fault.”)
5. Hypersensitivity. (Easily upset by annoyances that are a part of daily life.)
6. Cruelty to animals or children.
7. “Playful” use of force in sex. (May start having sex with you when you are sleeping or demand sex when you are ill or tired.)
8. Verbal abuse.
9. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. (Sudden mood swings and unpredictable behavior – one minute loving, the next minute angry and punitive.)
10. Past history of battering. (Has hit others but has a list of excuses for having been “pushed over the edge.”)
11. Threats of violence.
12. Breaking or striking objects.
13. Uses force during an argument.
Any woman who sees herself in this column should call the nearest women’s crisis line and tell someone what is happening. She will be provided with support and safety options.
Some women do not realize they are being abused until someone points it out to them. They have been made to believe that abusive treatment is what they deserve and that most women are treated this way. Women who see themselves in his should check out the nearest shelter and keep the phone number handy. They can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (TDD: 800-787-3224).
1. Controlling behavior: “I know what’s best for you” and “I know what you want (or need).”The reality is that no one knows what is best for another adult.
2. Blames others for his problems: “Look what you made me do” and “If you hadn’t done that, none of this would have happened.”
3. Use of force in sex and/or saying that sex was a “wifely duty.” There is no law requiring a woman to have sex if she doesn’t want to. Forced sex is called rape.
4. History of battering: Excuses include the classic, “If you hadn’t provoked me …”The truth is that he chose to hit, push, kick, slap or punch you. If he hit you once, he will hit you again.
5. Verbal abuse: If someone deliberately hurts your feelings by word or deed, it is abuse, even if it is as simple as “You look fat in that outfit.”
6. Threats of violence: Threats are almost always precursors to the deed. If he threatens you, leave him before he does it.
7. Use of force during an argument: Most women feel, as I did, that if they haven’t been hit, they have not been physically abused. Restraining someone is also physical abuse. Pushing and shoving are physical abuse.
Abuse and battery take a toll on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual energy. It is easy to say no. We say this word all the time. Unfortunately, we find it especially difficult to say no to those we love and those we fear.
Posted on March 8, 2013, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, relationships, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, relationships, sexism, violence against women, women. Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.