Saturday, May 4, 2013

my dad did it again

So my dad and mom came over to play bridge tonight. I was wary because he began picking on me and my physical appearance from the moment he walked in the door, taunting me by telling me to brush my hair and dismissing with his usual contempt my attempts to tell him about my accomplishments. He psychologically brutalized me and my mother throughout the bridge game. He ruined my Shabbos intentionally and so feeling that G-d abandoned me I decided I am going to violate Shabbos. Grandma sided with him against me, getting upset with me for crying and not with him for psychologically terrorizing me. I am pondering my next move - facing a society that won't hire me because of my autism, beginning to network with autism organizations but having no certain job prospects, working with vocational rehabilitation but doubtful they will help me. I want to escape my family but I face a society that refuses to let me earn a living because of my autism and has systematically refused to hire me and fired me for 17 years and counting with no end in sight. And no I am not interested in SSI and welfare because I want to work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A potential game-changer: SCORE now offers on-line mentoring

I am an autistic adult, and I am in the process of writing a self-employment guide for autistic people.  I am also a survivor of psychological child abuse by both parents and my maternal grandma and a witness to my dad’s ongoing psychological abuse against my mother.  I have done extensive writing and thinking about how to help women escape from the control mechanisms of all types of domestic violence. I am deeply committed to the struggle against domestic violence and all forms of oppression.

In 2000, I started a business that involved publishing a newsletter on Latin American Internet companies.  I sought the help of a mentor from the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE).  This outstanding group of successful business people volunteer their time to help new entrepreneurs with every aspect of their business, from writing a business plan to marketing and sales and human resources management. I found this advisor’s suggestions as very helpful. 

And so I was very pleased to discover that this group now offers on-line consultations with a national group of mentors.  You can search for a mentor by both industry specialization and by functional focus.  So you could search for a marketing mentor who has industry focus on the IT sector, for instance.  This service allows you to tap a previously unavailable national network of volunteer mentors so that you are no longer limited by geographic restrictions to meeting only with mentors in your local area.  So if you are starting a technology business in Florida, now you have access to technology marketing specialists in Silicon Valley. 

On-line mentoring is also extremely helpful to abused women who might want to start a home-based business without their male partner knowing about their activities. This way a woman could seek on-line advice about how to run her business.  She could operate under the radar of her abuser and would not have to leave the house to attend a mentoring meeting.  Thus, her abuser would be less likely to track or question her movements.  In this way a woman could begin making plans for her financial self-liberation from her abuser’s control while keeping her male partner in the dark and protecting her safety.   


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence from One Autistic Perspective

My second major revelation is that although autism has been a disaster for me in the career arena, it has been a powerful strength in anothear important area of my life. In particular, I am learning that as a result of my autism, I can cut through the most common rationalizations and justifications for domestic violence and child abuse. As a child, I was subjected to psychological child abuse by both parents, particularly my father. I am also a witness to my dad's ongoing campaign of psychological terror against my mother. I knew from a very early age that child abuse and domestic violence were morally wrong and absolutely evil. Unlike my neurotypical mother, I never searched my behavior to determine what I might have done wrong to provoke the abuse. I never tried to fix my behavior in an attempt to appease my father and end the abuse. I also never justified and rationalized child abuse and domestic violence.

My clear and strong sense of morality allowed me to grasp that my father's abuse was motivated by a deep desire to exercise absolute power and control over his female relatives. This clear understanding of the difference between good and evil empowered me to stand up to my father from a very early age on my own behalf and my mother's behalf. I knew that my dad's abuse against me and my mother was inherently wrong and had no justification. I also realized that it was completely unconnected with my actions and my mother's behavior. I never wasted time looking for my dad's approval or hoping he would change or believing that he would stop abusing me if only I could develop better table manners or social skills or make any other changes in my life.

I believe that I can make a contribution to the fields of domestic violence and child abuse by presenting my perspectives on these issues from an Asperger perspective. I think that my autistic point of view is a powerful strength when it comes to addressing these problems. I believe that the autistic viewpoint can help victims and survivors of domestic violence and child abuse to understand that they should stop rationalizing the behavior of their abusers. They should stop trying to fix their conduct in a vain attempt to gain their abuser's approval and put an end to the abuse. They should realize that their abuser is only interested in establishing and maintaining power and control over their victims and is unrelated to the victim's behavior. Thus, the only way to end such pathological and sadistic abuse in most cases is simply to end the relationship.  One should not negotiate with or attempt to appease a hard-core abuser who is engaged in patriarchal terrorism.  A total separation from the abuse is the only viable solution in such situations.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review of Living with the Dominator Workbook by Patricia Craven

By Rachel Silverman

The workbook is a powerful companion to the Living with the Dominator Book.  This workbook allows abused women to examine in detail how the abuse has affected our lives.  I learned a lot about myself from the workbook exercise and gained additional insight into the mind-set behind my dad’s abusive behavior toward my mother and me.  I highly recommend the workbook alongside the main book.  The workbook contains many tools for self-reflection which can empower abused women and help them to break down the abuser’s tactics.    

Chapter 1 - I like this exercise.  She powerfully indicates how control and power work and she also explains the process of cognitive dissonance.  She shows how our actions contradict our stated beliefs and indicate that we don’t practice what we preach.
Chapter 2 I like this workbook because it gives me the opportunity to examine my underlying beliefs – to see the operation of cognitive dissonance, to understand the root causes of the abuser’s behavior, to explore the ways in which women’s beliefs contribute to their disempowerment.  This workbook helps women to see how society’s prejudices and the intergenerational transmission of violence contribute to domestic violence. It also reminds women that alternative types of men who love and honor women do exist and that women don’t have to accept being abused in order to be in a relationship with a man. In every chapter she concludes with a description of a loving man in order to show women that they do have a choice in their most intimate relationship in their life.

Section 3 (Chapter 4: The Bad Father) Reading this chapter helped me reflect upon the ways that abusers maintain financial and emotional control over their former partners.  These abusers refuse to pay child support and alimony and use their children as tools to continue their warfare against their former partners.  Many women’s lives have been destroyed by their former partners’ continuing assault upon their children.  These  mothers suffer severe and even irreparable damage because of the ways their former partners harm and control their children.  These women are often unable to completely disengage and liberate themselves from their former abusers because their ex-abusers continue to control and harm them through their children.    In some cases abusers take full custody of some or all children, either legally or illegally, thus depriving mothers of all access to their children.  Many abused women are devastated by their forcible separation from their children.
Section 4 (Chapter 5) effects of DV on children. This chapter gives women a chance to reflect upon the impact of DV upon children.  The chapter helps women to understand in detailed and specific ways how DV undermines children at all stages of development, from infancy to young childhood and adolescence.  I hope that women who read this chapter will give up the myth that they should stay with their abusers ‘for the sake of the children” and begin to understand just how terribly damaging domestic violence is to the children who witness and often suffer it.  The workbook helps women to see how removing the abuser from their life directly benefits the pregnant mother, baby, young child, and teenager. 

The chapter on the headworker (Section 5 – Chapter 6) gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the insidious ways that my dad’s psychological abuse has undermined my mother’s self-esteem and self-confidence.  It also reminded me in clear and stark terms that psychological abuse by itself is a highly damaging form of assault upon a woman’s psyche. Insults to a woman’s physical appearance can be particularly harmful to a woman’s self-esteem.
The chapter on the jailer (section 6 – Chapter 7) exposes in detail the tactics of isolation that many abusers use as a means of controlling their partners.  Isolation ranges from limiting her friendships and social interaction to preventing her from working or studying to forcibly confining her in the house in a state of terror and psychological captivity.  I have heard horrifying stories of women who were prevented from studying and from leaving the house by their abusers.  In addition by blocking the woman from studying, he is also preventing her from achieving financial independence and thus keeping her under his economic control.  These women are literally prisoners in their own home, and they often fear for their lives as well.

The chapter on the sexual controller (section 7 – Chapter 8) was very powerful, moving, and upsetting.  I found it painful to think about how men rape women and children in war as a method of control and power.  I also was emotionally affected by thinking about how men rape their wives and girlfriends and how this abuse creates a sort of traumatic bonding between victim and abuser which psychologically terrorizes the victim and keeps her attracted to her attacker.  Sexual control is the most degrading aspect of abuse in a toxic relationship as it undermines the woman’s most intimate aspect of her life and makes her feel worthless inside. 
The chapter on the king of the castle (section 8 – Chapter 9) gave me an opportunity to understand and reflect upon the tactics of subtle manipulation and deception that he uses to control his partner.  I struggle to understand the manipulative methods of control and found this introduction very informative.  I also had two revelations while reading this chapter and doing the Programme.  I learned that advertisers discriminated against women and perpetuated gender stereotypes that associate women with cleaning by only showing women in cleaning ads.  Despite my feminist consciousness, I didn’t realize that showing only women in cleaning ads is a form of gender discrimination and sexist stereotypes.  Second, I realized that the term ‘housewife’ which I frequently use to refer to full time wives and mothers is actually also degrading toward women as well. 
The chapter on the liar (section 9 – Chapter 10) was also very useful and informative.  I had the opportunity to get inside the abuser’s mind and to understand how the abuser’s beliefs about gender roles are closely related to particular types of abusers.  In particular I learned about the beliefs of the jailer, sexual controller, and king of the castle. She also illuminates the complicated aspects of the cycle of violence, including the concept that male abusers attack their female partners in response to the woman’s defiance of her abuser’s sexist belief system.

The persuader offers a subtle analysis of the psychological abuser.  The workbook explains how the abuser will use manipulation, deception, and intimidation to keep control of his victim.  This chapter reminded me how the abuser can keep his victim in a state of continual terror with threats of murder and suicide.  And even if the victim leaves him, she still lives in fear of him stalking her and tracking her down to kill her and her children.  Threatening to sue for child custody is another effective tactic of psychological and financial intimidation as well.    
The final chapter which explains the early warning signs for each type of abuser is extremely powerful and effective.  I think the final chapter should be required reading for U.S. and British children in middle school and high school so they can spot the warning signs of an abusive partner and avoid continuing the cycle of violence in their own lives.  Finally, the exercise which allows women to imagine their freedom and to see the benefits of removing abusers from their lives is also helpful.

Review of Living with the Dominator by Patricia Craven

Review by Rachel Silverman

I found the Freedom Programme through a Facebook friend in the UK who attended the programme while she lived in a domestic violence shelter.  We are both members of the UK-based secret group for domestic abuse survivors on Face Book called Surviving Beautifully.   I cannot attend the Freedom Programme in person since I live in the United States, and so I purchased the e-book Living with the Dominator.  I recently fled my emotionally abusive parents and grandmother and am now residing in a transition house in an undisclosed location in the United States.

I read it and responded to this book Living with the Dominator during two sessions lasting several hours each.  I highly recommend this well-written, entertaining book for all women who have recently escaped from abusive male partners or parents.   In this book Ms. Craven breaks down the personality types of seven male abusers: the Bully, the Headworker, the BadFather, the King of the Castle, the Sexual Controller, the Jailer, and the Liar.  For each personality type she first explains what behaviors the abuser exhibits.  Then she examines what beliefs motivate the abuser, how women internalize the abuser’s beliefs, and how the broader society and the media help to strengthen the abuser’s harmful world view.  Finally she offers a brief contrast to each of these abusive personalities in order to show abused women that not all men act like their abusive partner (or father in my case).   The book was so well done that oftentimes I wondered if Ms. Craven hadn’t already met my father and my mother.  She described them both so perfectly in their roles. 
She also includes a chapter explaining how domestic violence affects the child at every stage of life – from pregnancy and childbirth, age 6 and then the teenager. I only wish my mother had read and internalized this chapter a long time ago.  I could only remember with horror my childhood at age 6 and as a teenager with my abusive father.  Ms. Craven pointed out how abuse often happens at the dinner table – and it was a revelation for me to learn that meal times are often the site of abuse in many other homes as well. 

She concludes with a very powerful section where she breaks down the process whereby incidents of verbal abuse and physical violence happen.  She explains how abusive men are motivated to attack their partners whenever they feel threatened by their partners’ challenging their sexist core beliefs and their control over the relationship.  The abusive man believes he has the right to control his partner because he is a man, and she is a woman.  He believes all men have the right to terrorize and control all women.  This chapter was extremely helpful to me to understand just how calculated, organized, and premeditated my dad’s abuse of me and my mother is.  
I recognized critical aspects of my father’s personality in nearly all the different forms of the abusive man.  I had identified my father’s two primary abusive personalities as the Bully and the Headworker before reading the book. But Ms. Craven really breaks the elements of the Bully and the Headworker effectively so that I have a deeper insight and understanding into how exactly my dad functions as the Bully and the Headworker.  Her analysis of the Bully was helpful to me because I learned for the first time that the Bully (my father) is not angry.  Rather, he is in full control of his emotions when he brutalizes his partner or child.  In addition, she said on page 22 that the negative behavior of British politicians who jeer at each other in the British Parliament contribute to the atmosphere which allows for men to emotionally abuse their partners in the home.  I always used to like watching Prime Minister’s Questions on C-Span and didn’t find it problematic.  So Ms. Craven’s perspective was helpful to me in this regard too.

My father also exhibits aspects of the other abusive personalities as well.  He is the Jailer in the sense that he destroyed my mother’s relationship with her best friend in order to isolate her and that he refused to allow her to go to work.  He is the BadFather in that he treats me, his daughter, with contempt because I am female and favors my brother over me simply because he is a male, and I am a female.  My dad acts like King of the Castle in his total refusal to do any housework whatsoever, whether food preparation, laundry, shopping, or cleaning.  Ms. Craven’s feminist analysis of the Good Wives guide that was used to control British women in the 1950’s rings very true.

This book is a very well-written guide for survivors of domestic violence and child abuse.  I highly recommend it for women who have left their abusive partners and for adult survivors of child abuse by their fathers like me.         

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Domestic Violence in Latin America

Unfortunately, the Latin American and Eastern European countries that have recently made the transition from political repression or Communism to democracy have not shown similar gains for women.  Chile regained its democracy in 1990 after a brutal right-wing military dictatorship sponsored by the U.S. which killed some 3,000 peaceful leftist activists.  Chile even elected the first female President in South America recently, Michelle Bachelet.  Yet even in Chile in 2004, men abused a shocking 50% of married women, inflicting physical violence on 34% and psychological abuse on an additional 16%.  Another study found that 85% of Chilean women are physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by their partners.  So the restoration of Chilean democracy has done little or nothing to improve the lives or status of Chilean women.

In addition, the examples of Botswana and Costa Rica illustrate that even the absence of a national military and a long-standing historical tradition of peace and democracy do not necessarily translate into gains for women.  Costa Rica and Botswana are both distinguished by virtue of being the only countries in their respective regions, Latin America and Africa, which have abolished their militaries.  Costa Rica and Botswana also have much longer traditions of peace and democracy than other countries in their regions.  Yet almost identically high proportions of women are being hit by their male partners in both Costa Rica and Botswana: 58% in Costa Rica and 60% for Botswana.

The story across Latin America is particularly depressing. Men systematically rape and hit their female partners throughout the region.  In many countries, men abuse over half of their female partners.  Some 52% to 60% of Nicaraguan women in the capital of Managua say they have been hit by their male partners, including 11% of pregnant women.  In Peru the rates of domestic violence are even higher than in Nicaragua.  Some 49% of women in the capital Lima and 61% of women in Peru’s second city of Cuzco were hit by their male partners.  In addition, some 23% of women in Lima and 47% of women in Cuzco were sexually assaulted by their male partners.  Think for a  moment about the fact that men are battering roughly six in ten women in Costa Rica, Botswana, and Cuzco, Peru.   

Peru is known for being a highly stratified society driven by discrimination based on race against indigenous peoples and by income against poor people.  Peru was the site of the Inca Empire, which was built on racial oppression of non-Inca people and of human sacrifice.  The Spanish conquest of Peru was even more devastating to the indigenous people in Peru, millions of whom died from war and disease.  In recent years Peru has moved toward greater political democracy and capitalism.  However, the democratization of Peru is not likely to improve the condition of its women. 

Nicaragua has had a tumultuous history in the second half of the 20th century.  Prior to 1979, Nicaragua suffered under the Somoza regime, which was characterized by a small land-owning elite using the military to repress the poor majority.  Following the Communist Sandinista revolution, Nicaragua suffered a civil war.  The Sandinistas were defeated in the late 1980’s by the U.S-backed Contras, and democracy was established in Nicaragua with a free election in 1991 which brought Violetta Chamoro to power.  Eventually the Sandanistas won free elections in Nicaragua and have begun re-imposing Communism in Nicaragua in alliance with the Chavez regime in Venezuela.  The women of Nicaragua have suffered high levels of male violence in their homes throughout the political turmoil in their country.

Men are abusing nearly half of Mexican women and over six in ten women in Colombia as well. Men are hitting a staggering 65% of women in Colombia and 47% of women in Mexico.  Some 40% of women in Durango City, Mexico, say they have been hit by their partners at some point in their lives.  One study of nearly 100 women in Quito, Ecuador, found that 25% were being regularly beaten by their partners, and another 41% were threatened with violence.  Thus, 2/3 of women in Quito, Ecuador, are living under the shadow of male violence from their partners.   

The high rates of domestic violence in Colombia may be related to the longstanding drug and civil war which has plagued Colombia for decades.  But given the high levels of ongoing domestic violence in Chile, but it seems unlikely that the defeat of the drug lords and the restoration of relative social peace in Colombia will make any difference for Colombian women.  Mexico has a long history of authoritarian military repression against indigenous peoples and poor people particularly, and it seems possible that the transfer of the Latin American drug war from Colombia to Mexico in recent years could increase already sky-high levels of domestic violence in Mexico.  Ecuador is also known for its high levels of economic inequality and increasingly for its authoritarian Communist regime allied to Chavez in Venezuela, neither of which bode well for the women of Ecuador.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

La Violencia Contra La Mujer en Latinoamérica

Segun una encuesta en 1996, 81.5% de las mujeres en Chile sufren de una forma de violencia psicológica, física y/o sexual de sus parejas.  La gran mayoría de las mujeres en Chile existen en una carcel de amenaza psicológica en sus propios hogares.  Chile elegió una mujer, Michelle Bachelet, como  presidente.  Pero que significa los “derechos humanos” si el lugar mas peligroso para la mujer es su propia casa?  página 23.

Costa Rica, el pais mas democrático y tranquilo en la region, también tiene un gran problema con la violencia doméstica.  En 1994, 75% de las mujeres costariqueñas aguantaron de la violence psicológica en su casa, y 10% sufrieron de la violencia física.  página 23. Costa Rica derogó su militar en 1948.  Pero las mujeres todavía mueren a causa de la guerra en sus propias casas.   

En Guatemala, uno de los países mas violentos de toda Latinoamérica, “solo” 47% de las mujeres  sufrieron de la violencia doméstica en 1990.  página 24. Guatemala tuvo un militar muy bárbaro, que mató indiscriminadamente a 200,000 ciudadanos indígenos durante la guerra civil.  Pero menos de la mitad de las mujeres guatemaltecas sufren de la violencia intrafamiliar. 
Los orígenes de la violencia doméstica son muy complejos, y no existen soluciones faciles para este problema serio.  Una causa critica es que el 84% de los ciudadanos mexicanos creen que la violencia intrafamiliar es un asunto privado.  página 24. Si la población no comprende que la violencia doméstica es un peligro público y social, no se puede comenzar el trabajo difícil de construir las opciones para combatir este problema importante. 

Otra explicación es que la mayoría de las mujeres tienen miedo de buscar ayuda para este problema.  80% de las mujeres golpeadas en Nicuragua rechazan buscar apoyo  Las víctimas sufren del aislamiento y también de una falta de amor propio. página 27
Segun un estudio Colombiano, las víctimas tienen muchas razones por su denegación de solicitar ayuda.  31% de las víctimas creen que pueden resolver la situación con los métodos privados.  Indudablamente, 22% tienen miedo de la venganza de su pareja.  Y 17% piensan en la esperanza mentirosa que su marido puede cambiar su comportamiento. pagina 27

Otra encuesta Colombiana de una comunidad campesina indicó que las causas de la violencia doméstica  incluyeron: el abuso del alcohol y las drogas (83.4)%, la presión económica (67%), el cambio en el papel social de la mujer (67%), y la infidelidad (47%). Los hombres latinos se sienten amenazados por la perdida del poder económico sobre las mujeres.  Los varónes utilizan la violencia y la intimidación psicológica para reestablecer su autoridad y liderazgo en la relaciones conyugáles.   
La trabajadora social Mildred Dolores Mata estudia las causas de la violencia doméstica y los feminicidios.  Mata cree que las niñas se crían en la juventud para aceptar las desigualdádes entre los géneros.
Las prácticas de la discriminación y la injusticia empiezan en la ensenañza y la mente.  Un hombre controla los pensamientos de la víctima antes de atacárla físicamente.  Los orígenes subyacentes de la violencia doméstica son intelectuales y económicos.  Entonces la solución comienza con cambiar las actitudes de las mujeres y los hombres desde la niñez.