Baltimore Ravens football star, Ray Rice, was recently suspended by the NFL for two games after a video showed him dragging his unconscious girl friend (now his wife) out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator.
Yesterday the Ravens fired Ray Rice and the NFL placed him on indefinite suspension after a new video showed Rice punching and knocking out his girlfriend moments before he dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator.
I wondered how, in the first video, did the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens think she became unconscious and unresponsive?
This is the second of several pieces I wrote over the past decade about abuse.
EMOTIONAL ABUSE: I SEE MYSELF
We separated for one week but he kept calling and crying on the phone. He begged and pleaded and promised to change. I could not take the pressure and told him he could return. He did not change.
Victim of Emotional Abuse
My wife and I spoke about emotional abuse to approximately 85 college students recently.
Millions of women (and some men) live with repeated verbal assaults, humiliation, sexual coercion, and other forms of psychological abuse, often accompanied by economic exploitation. I’ve worked in organizations for 40 years as a leader and consultant, and I’ve never been in an organization that didn’t have abuse as part of its dark side.
Yet few of the students had heard the term “emotional abuse.” It remains one of society’s dirty, dark secrets. Our communities that dehumanize women and children in scores of ways daily need to illuminate their many dark shadows.
We defined emotional abuse as the chronic use of words and acts (including body language) that devalue and frighten another person for the purpose of control. Emotional abusers rule the lives of victims through the power of words and actions and the constant implicit threat of physical assault.
Emotional abuse always precedes physical abuse. Not all emotional abusers become physical.
- Scott Peck, M.D. defined evil as the use of power to harm the spirit of another to maintain one’s sick self. Emotional abuse is clearly evil behavior. Each of us can decide for ourselves if we think abusers are evil people.
Consummate name-callers, abusers criticize constantly—nothing is ever good enough. They yell, scream, and drive the victim’s friends away to isolate her. They eavesdrop on phone conversations, censor mail, and expect instant responses to pages, cell phone calls, and instant messages. They control with lies, confusion, and contradictions; they make a person feel crazy. They lurk and they stalk. One abuser said to a victim: “I had to keep you down. I was afraid you would outshine me.”
Emotional abusers belittle the feelings of their victims, denigrate women as a group calling them crazy, emotional, or stupid. They withhold approval, appreciation, and affection to punish their victims. They put down their victims in public, take them out socially and then ignore them, and they prevent victims from working, going to school, or leaving the house alone. They control the money, make all the decisions, and require their permission to do or have anything. They are little gods unworthy of the power they abuse.
If married they might destroy, sell, or give away things the victim (or both of them) own, prevent the victim from seeing her family, threaten to hurt family or friends, punish or keep things from the children when angry at the victim. They often treat the children more nicely than usual when angry at their victim, blame the victim for any problems, real or imagined, with the children, and may abuse pets to hurt their primary victim.
They may accuse their victim of having affairs. If a victim is physically or sexually abused, they say she asked for it, deserved it, or liked it. They may threaten to tell their victim’s employer or family that she is a lesbian to get her fired or to have her children taken away from them.
They then deny that their behavior is abusive or minimize it by calling their victim crazy or stupid or telling her that she made it up. One abuser told his wife often: “You just don’t know how bad you are.”
Victims of emotional abuse live in fear and repeatedly alter thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to avoid further abuse. They lose themselves. Emotional abuse, like brain washing, systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, and trust in their own perceptions. Whether abused by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance, teaching, or advice,” the results remain the same: the victim of the abuse loses all sense of self and lives in confusion. The scars of emotional abuse may be far deeper and more lasting than physical wounds.
The ongoing pattern of abuse follows a cycle:
- Tension building: tension increases, breakdown of communication, the victim feels a need to placate the abuser,
- Incident: verbal and emotional abuse, anger, blaming, arguing, threats, and intimidation,
- Reconciliation: the abuser apologizes, gives excuses, blames the victim, denies the abuse occurred, or says it wasn’t as bad as the victim claims (abusers tend to forget their abuse while victims remember it forever),
- Calm: the incident is “forgotten”, no abuse is taking place.
And the cycle begins again.
The long-term effects on victims: Isolation from others, low self-esteem, depression, emotional problems, illness, alcohol or drug use, and withdrawal.
After our presentation, a man talked to me. He said, “I see myself in the traits of abusers.” What did he see?
- Abusers tend to have explosive tempers triggered by minor frustrations and arguments when their egos are threatened,
- They are possessive and jealous: “I own you. Where were you? Who were you with? What did you do?”
- Abusers tend to think highly of themselves: arrogant, entitled, superior, and selfish—everything is always about them, and they always come first.
- Abusers have a great capacity for self-deception: they play the victim, always have an excuse and deniability for their acts. They blame others for what goes wrong in their lives. They deny and distort their behavior and cannot give an accurate picture of themselves or of their partner.
- They manipulate: they lie always, can be charming in public, and can convince others of their innocence–family, friends, judges, and lawyers get fooled by them everyday—you must look at their behavior over time to see their patterns.
A woman who says she is abused, almost always is.
Emotional abusers learn their behavior, and the man who could see himself in the traits of the abuser spoke for many men who have learned to abuse their power to control others in brutal ways—at home, at work, and in the community.
Abusers don’t change easily or willingly. Author Lundy Bancroft (“Why Does He Do That?) wrote:
There are no shortcuts to change, no magical overnight transformations, no easy ways out. Change is difficult, uncomfortable work. The project is not hopeless—if the man is willing to work hard—but it is complex and painstaking. The challenge for an abused woman is to learn how to tell whether her partner is serious about overcoming his abusiveness.
The initial impetus to change is always extrinsic rather than self-motivated. The majority of abusive men do not make deep and lasting changes even in a high-quality abuser program
My father taught me to respect all people. I’ve worked as a Secret Service agent, business executive in tough union environments, and a consultant in many anti-human organizations: real men don’t abuse anyone, especially women. Only cowards abuse and bully others.
Good citizens—too often indifferent—need to stand up for our mothers, daughters, sisters, neighbors, co-workers, and friends who are victims and hold abusers accountable for their behavior; they victimize each of us.
Indifference to disrespect is a community’s greatest sin.
“Men Who Hate Women & The women Who Love Them” by Susan Forward, Ph.D.
“Who Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft