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.     

Friday, September 7, 2012

Elegy for a wasted career

I write this article as an expression of my decision to finally leave the field of international relations after a 13 year nightmare in which I suffered one horrendous setback after another.   When I applied for a fellowship in Middle Eastern studies after 13 years of relentless and endless rejection, I made an inner promise to myself.  I told myself that this opportunity would be the last chance for me to explore any options in international relations.  I also decided that if this fellowship application were denied, then I would walk away from international relations once and for all.  I decided to put a final end to an ordeal with no positive experiences so that I could begin moving on and healing from the nightmare. 

Well, I got what looked to me like a bad result.  I received a partial fellowship offer.  The problem was, the 50% fellowship offer left me with a $3,000 deficit that I had no way to cover.  I decided to decline the fellowship offer because I saw no prospect of being able to raise the remaining funds on my own. 
Seeking to take advantage of my despair to re-assert their control over me, my parents offered to cover the difference.  I turned them down flat because accepting their funds would have defeated the entire purpose of applying for the fellowship in the first place: to begin establishing a career based upon financial independence from them. 

In addition, I knew that I was in no position emotionally to begin a new search for funds, particularly since the deadline for the fellowship was around November 1.  Sensing a lack of time and a lack of options and feeling trapped once again, I decided to let go of the nightmares and begin moving on with my life. 
Part of the problem was that I have Asperger’s, and I had no way to interpret the funder’s ambiguous decision.  On the one hand, he seemed like he was trying to encourage me.  On the other hand, his decision placed me in an impossible position from which I saw no possibility for escape.  Being confused about the funder’s intentions, I assumed the worst. My inflexible mind-set may have blinded me to the possibilities of seeking additional funding.   But I know that I did the right thing in turning down the funder’s offer because it left me feeling trapped and desperate inside. 

I was driven out of Russian studies at Brown University as a undergraduate by a professor who bullied me mercilessly.  He also incited the other professors against me, and I later found out that he was an anti-Semite because I happened to find his name on a petition against Israel and the Jews recently.  I gave up my dream of pursuing a PhD in Russian studies and becoming a professor because I knew that I couldn’t function socially in the academic world, and later I realized that the problem was my Asperger’s made it completely impossible for me to function socially in any office setting.
Later I studied Russian for 2 years, and I tried to find work as a Russian-language researcher.  Despite the best efforts of my two professors in the field, I couldn’t find a job in this area either.    

I tried to make a living as a freelance writer and analyst of Middle Eastern studies.  I spent many wasted years writing a book on Iraq in support of the Iraqi democratic movement and in support of the U.S. invasion and liberation of Iraq.  I couldn’t get any articles published, and unfortunately I don’t have the opportunity to visit a liberated Iraq for a very simple reason.  I am a Jew who has chosen to visit Israel, and Iraq remains officially at war with Israel and the Jews. Once you show that you have visited Israel on your passport, Iraq will not let you into the country.  In addition, even though I dedicated six years of my life to the Iraqi liberation movement, my Iraqi democratic contacts never lifted a finger to help me careerwise.  I feel they used me for their own purposes.

I also supported the Iranian secular democratic movement in 2009 to 2010, and this experience led me to another dead end careerwise.  The Iranian opposition in exile exploited me and then discarded me, making no effort to help me find work in the field.  My effort to support the Syrian uprising in 2011 was another waste of time as well. 

So I knew as soon as I received that email containing a partial fellowship offer that it was time for me to cut my losses and move on.  I have wasted more than enough years of my life in a field where I have no chance of ever earning a living, and so it is time for me to move on to fields where hopefully my talents will be more needed and appreciated.

I think that perhaps the funder may have done me a favor by not offering me a full scholarship for my project.  I think that Middle Eastern studies is an impossible place for a Jewish woman who supports Israel and the Jews and who supports the cause of freedom in the Arab and Islamic world.  So perhaps his decision to offer me partial funding helped to spare me the experience of spending my career in a hopelessly hostile and anti-Jewish environment. 

Having been excluded from the standard career options in the field such as academia and government because of the Asperger’s, I wasted many years of my life scrounging around on the margins of international relations.  Having recognized the futility of this endeavor, I am gradually moving on from this terrible ordeal.  
I am beginning to heal because I know that the reason I was denied the full funding for the project was that I wasn’t meant to remain in the field of international relations.  I am sad and disappointed at the outcome of my experience in the field.  But I have also come to recognize that the reason I was repeatedly rejected in the field is that I don’t belong in this profession. So the many people who rejected me in this profession were acting not out of malice but out of their inner understanding that international relations was not the right place for me.

I haven’t fully forgiven the many professors who blocked me from pursuing a career in international relations.  But I realize that holding on to anger, hatred, and grudges is making me physically ill.  I am beginning to explore the possibility of forgiving the professors who mistreated me in this field. 
I still have a hard time forgiving their behavior because they have expressed no remorse to me for their actions, and so I have no reason to believe they are sorry for what they have done to me.  Judaism generally teaches that the sinner must show some evidence of atonement or repentance before you can forgive him or her.  In the absence of such atonement, I don’t really know how I can forgive people who have hurt me so deeply.

At the same time, I am seeing that I am hurting myself with my anger. I am looking for another path for coping with injustice.  I am wondering whether forgiving even bad and unrepentant people will liberate me from fear and anger.  I am thinking that opening my heart to forgiveness even to terrible sinners may allow me to heal from the trauma they have inflicted upon me.  My friends are pointing out that my anger at my abusers is controlling me and that the process of forgiveness can liberate me to fulfill my purpose in life.   By forgiving my abusers, I can release and reduce their choke-hold upon my mind, body, and spirit.  I am pondering these new and strange ideas and trying to process what they mean to me and how to implement them in my life. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Standing up to my abusers

My family of origin tried to terrorize me again today.  How?  Well, my maternal grandmother has been staying with me in my apartment to help me adjust for nearly a week.  Grandma and I have had a wonderful time together.  Grandma has helped me to set up the apartment, to clean the dishes and the furniture, and to cook food.  She has been an enormous help.
I had one amusing incident with her yesterday.  So she woke up at 8 a.m., and I got up around 10:30 a.m.  I saw that grandma had not made herself breakfast.  When I asked her why, she explained that she had no bread in the house.  She absolutely refused to make breakfast without any bread, even though we have plenty of eggs in the house.  So we walked together to Publix and made sure to buy her white bread (and also meat, dairy, and pareve dish towels for the household).  I didn’t make breakfast until after we returned from the store with the bread in hand.  Grandma waited four and a half hours for her first meal on Thursday, all because she wouldn’t eat breakfast without bread.
So back to the story.  My mother is supposed to come on Sunday to deliver some things to me and to see me.  She is also supposed to pick up my grandmother and bring her back home.  Well, my abusers thought they could pull a fast one on me.  My mother insisted that my dad had to come on the trip, using the flimsy excuse that she needed my dad’s help to carry the dresser with her.  I said we could easily hire the maintenance people in the building to put the dresser together for me. 
Then I realized what was really going on.  My mother was trying to convince me to let my dad back into my life on a full-time basis.  My dad and I had enjoyed ourselves at dinner watching football last week.  However, my dad also terrorized me when he, my mom, and my grandma came to visit me in the domestic violence shelter on December 25.  Based upon that experience, I had made a firm rule that my dad could not see me face to face. 
My friend Monica warned me that my family would try to test the limits that I had set for them. And this is exactly what happened.  My mother was testing my limits by pressuring me to let my dad come to visit me at my apartment.  I knew in my heart that it was time for me to set very firm limits with my abusers.  Having spent her whole marriage in captivity, my mother is trying to drag me back to captivity alongside her. I refuse to let her do this to me.
When I refused to let my dad visit me, my mother hurled the worst insult she could possibly issue against me: comparing me with my dad’s mother.  My mother said that I was doing to dad exactly what his mother had done to him. His mother was a profoundly evil human being who never did a good deed in her whole life and who brutalized my father severely, definitely emotionally and possibly physically as well.  I knew this comparison was ridiculous and said so.  In response my mother escalated by telling me I am not allowed to email or call her anymore.  I am now restricted to texting her.  That’s fine with me.
My grandmother also sided with my parents against me.  She threatened to leave my apartment immediately if I refused to let my dad visit me.  She also told me that I could not come to her home if I persisted in my refusal to let my dad visit me.  My grandmother tried to terrorize me with threats that my dad would kick me out of the apartment and leave me in the street.  My grandmother does not understand that financial support does not give my dad the right to terrorize me.
I responded by calling my friend and fellow survivor in Boston, Monica, who had offered to let me stay with her for three weeks.  I told my grandmother that I was fully prepared to move to Boston if need be to escape the abuse.  I was prepared to give up this apartment if need be to put a permanent end to the abuse.  I also notified my best friend in Boston Elana to be on call if I should need her support.
My abusers see me as prey to be controlled.  They don’t realize that I am now a survivor of abuse and not a victim anymore.  Having claimed my freedom, I will never return to captivity.  But I know in my heart that the only way I could recover from past abuse is to put an end to present abuse.  There is no way for me to help my fellow survivors escape from abuse if I am still in captivity.  I am determined to continue on the path to freedom no matter what the cost.  Having spent my whole life up until 7 months ago in a state of prison, I am determined never to return to that awful state in life.      

Friday, January 13, 2012

Forced to flee…from a domestic violence shelter

I just realized that today is Friday the 13th.  The Western superstition concerning Friday the 13th is based  upon the fact that the Catholic Church slaughtered the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th during the Middle Ages.  For this reason most buildings in Western countries do not possess a 13th floor. 
Last Monday night I had a surreal experience.  For weeks I insisted that I did not want my dad to sign the lease for my apartment.  I felt that he would be able to re-assert control over me if his name were on the lease.  My mother had falsely promised me for weeks in response that my dad’s name would not be on the lease.  She also pretended that she alone could sign the lease in the name of the real estate corporation that she co-owned with my dad.
But in reality she and my dad knew all along that my dad’s signature was necessary for me to obtain the lease.  My mother has no independent income and therefore no credit.  Thus, she cannot sign the lease on her own.  In addition, her signature on the lease is largely irrelevant because really my dad is the only one who can sign the lease.  My dad has a steady income as a physician lasting over 30 years.  And so my dad could have easily signed the lease on his own – without my mother at all.  My mom is only on the lease for symbolic reasons – to appease me. 
So on Monday night, once it was too late for me to protest, my parents sprung upon me the terrifying news that my dad would be the primary signatory on the lease.  My parents had obviously manipulated me by earning my trust and then breaking it.  By this time, Monday, January 9th, the domestic violence shelter was scheduled to close in less than a week, by Sunday, January 15. 
Upon receiving this devastating news, I was completely terrified.  I cried powerfully for over an hour in reaction to this news.  In response the house manager “Jane” came downstairs and verbally assaulted me in an incredibly vicious way.  Rather than hugging me and comforting me in response to my distress, Jane only added tremendously to my feeling of trauma. 
Jane demanded to know what was wrong in a hostile tone of voice.  Sensing that I was in immediate danger from a severe verbal assault, I cried to her and pleaded with her to leave me alone. I remembered how she had sided with my abusive father against me during a frightening conversation several weeks earlier, utterly dismissing my concerns about his abuse and implying that he had never actually abused me.  She had said I had no right to refer to my abusive parents as ‘my captors’ and that I should be so grateful to them for their financial support that I should overlook and tolerate their horrific emotional abuse against me.
This time I told her that she didn’t care about me and so I begged her to leave me alone.  But rather than leave me alone, she unleashed a well-planned and effectively orchestrated verbal assault against me.  She repeated her cruel insistence that my parents had never harmed me and insultingly told me to look up the word ‘captor’ in the dictionary.  She further hurt my feelings by saying that I was a well-educated person, but I was also a slob who ate food off the kitchen floor.  She also defended her attack on me several months earlier and added that she didn’t appreciate me telling senior management about that assault against me.   And to add insult to injury, she told me to quit crying about my dad’s presence on the lease.  
It was obvious to me right after the assault that Jane had previously planned this attack against me and was simply waiting for the right moment to unleash it.  I suspect this because Jane had not simply attacked me blindly but rather had carefully prepared a detailed list of insults that she planned to use against me.  I think she had drawn up a list of the three most devastating things that she could say to me based upon over six months of living with me.  I had confided in her about my history of parental abuse and about many other painful issues in my life, and now she turned this information into a weapon to be used against me. 
Her abuse was much more severe and sophisticated than my dad’s abuse against me.  It also painfully reminded me of the fact that one of my prior therapists “Shirley” had done exactly the same thing to me just over a year earlier. Around October, 2010, I had been seeing a therapist for nearly 3 years.  My father had stopped paying Shirley’s fees because she had criticized my dad for abusing me and my mom for colluding with him against me. 
Shirley at first promised to see me even after my father stopped paying her fees.  But several weeks later she turned against me even more viciously than Jane.  She drew up the list of the most painful things she could say to me – and hit me with all of them at once. Among other things she called me an abuser in order to maximize my sense of trauma, fear, and pain.  Knowing how hard I work not to become an abuser and to break from both my father’s patterns of living as an abuser and my mother’s life as a victim, she hurt me in the gut.
I could not believe that I was being subjected to such severe verbal abuse at the hands of the house manager / employee of a domestic violence shelter.  It seems to me that this kind of abuse violates the whole purpose of living in a shelter.  The shelter is supposed to be a safe place where victims can go to heal from the trauma of abuse by their partners or parents, not a source of additional trauma for already frightened abuse victims.  I was very vulnerable to Jane’s abuse because I had still undergoing a fragile recovery process from a lifetime of abuse at the hands of my parents and grandmother.  In addition I had counted on the shelter to be a safe place where I could process and overcome the abuse I had previously suffered in other environments.
I felt as though my worst nightmare had come true.  I was in shock to realize that Jane had hated me all along for having more money than me and was just waiting for a chance to brutalize me.  It was hard to believe that the house manager of a domestic violence shelter could be a vicious bully and verbal abuser.  Jane’s assault completely destroyed my sense of safety in the shelter and made me realize I had to leave it immediately.  My friend Monica, a fellow abuse survivor, agreed with me that it was shocking to see a DV shelter turned into a place of vicious verbal assault against an emotionally vulnerable victims.      
I could not sleep all night in reaction to this assault and went to bed late and woke up late.  I told my mother what happened to me on Monday, and the next day she announced that she was coming to pick me up from the shelter on Wednesday.  I had two appointments on Wednesday: to see a nationally known psychiatrist who specializes in Asperger’s and to meet with the owners of an apartment where my dad had signed the lease for me. 
I had originally planned to stay in the shelter until it closed on January 15 and then move directly into a rental apartment.  But it was clear that I could not stay in this shelter any longer because I was now under vicious assault in this environment.  I first looked into staying in a youth hostel for four days in Miami Beach but decided against it because the cost was over $85 a night, or $344 for four nights. 
My mother suggested that instead I should move out of the shelter on Wed January 11 and come spend 4 days with my grandmother.  The plan was to move me into an apartment in Miami Beach on Sunday January 15 or Monday January 16.  I agreed to this plan because after suffering this abuse in the shelter I welcomed the opportunity to return to my grandmother’s house temporarily.  I had basically reconciled with my grandmother a month earlier and she had apologized for threatening to throw me out of the house and to take away my food.  She said she was just trying to scare me and didn’t expect I would have the courage to run away like I did.  She said she realized she had been very mean to me and she was sorry. 
On Tuesday I spent the day packing to move back to my grandmother’s house.  I was also crying to the senior management of the transition house where I had been staying.  I explained to Julia that I was devastated because the system had thwarted my attempt to liberate myself from my abusive and toxic family of origin.  And I told my fellow survivor Monica that I was terrified of having my dad as the primary signatory on the lease. 
Monica suggested that I should consider going to court to seek a no-contact order against my dad.  I didn’t know how I could do this with my dad paying the rent for me.  But Monica explained to me that I could get a no-contact order against my dad that specified he had to pay the rent for me.  I don’t know if I actually plan to do this, but I feel empowered knowing that I have this option should it become necessary. 
For now I am refusing to see my dad face to face because he terrorized my mother and me during his visit on December 25 to the transition house.  I am in phone contact with my father for now, but I am prepared to suspend or end this phone contact with him if he abuses me again.  And I am prepared for the possibility that I might need to seek a no-contact order against my dad in order to put a permanent end to his abuse against me.   
I feel safe in my grandmother’s house for now and am looking forward to hopefully moving to Miami Beach in either mid-January or early February. Also my mother told me that her best friend “Christine” told me she read my account of my dad’s assault against me on December 25. Christine said that she thought I am such a good writer that I should write a play based upon my experiences.  Christine also shared my writing with another person who agreed with her assessment that I should write a play. 
It is clear to me that my career is writer.  I am writing a book on verbal abuse in intimate relationships.  I am also thinking of doing freelance writing in fields ranging from women’s issues to disabilities to military matters.  And my mother suggested I consider writing children’s books.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

interesting dynamics

I am going through an interesting dynamic with my family of origin.  I have reconciled with my mother and grandmother, but I have made a firm decision to keep my father out of my life at any costs.  Having been forced to endure his abuse all my life until six months ago, I know in my heart that I will never let him back into my life.  Having experienced freedom for the first time from abuse in the past six months, I know that I will never go back to captivity or slavery again.
For this reason I refuse to let my dad visit me.  I also refuse to take money from my dad and to work for my dad under any conditions.  I won’t allow my dad’s name on the lease for my new apartment. I know that as long as I am financially dependent upon my dad, he will see this as license to brutalize and assault me.  For this reason my primary goal is to become financially independent of him. 
I know that I have finally found my calling as a writer and advocate for victims and survivors of verbally abusive relationships – both spousal and child situations.  It may take me some time to turn this calling into money.  But I already have a web site at which is spreading virally and I can see that my vision of creating a global community of survivors is beginning to come to fruition. 
I have found among my fellow survivors a high degree of understanding, compassion, solidarity, and support which was completely lacking in both academia and the corporate world.   I know now that there is a safe place for me in this world:  among my fellow survivors of domestic violence and child abuse, both male and female.  I have felt that my experiences were validated and understood instead of belittled and used against me.     
This experience is allowing me to finally begin healing from the pain of rejection at the hands of academia.  I thought academia would be a safe place to share ideas where intellectual talent was highly valued.  Instead I found a very vicious environment filled with petty office politics where the ability to fit in socially was more important than intellectual talent. 
I concluded that academia is pseudo-intellectual and not really intellectual.  The traditional Orthodox Jewish scholarly world is much more intellectual in the true sense of the word than the academic community.  I found a higher degree of real scholarship among educated Orthodox Jewish laymen, including businessmen, who spent their spare time learning Talmud than I ever found in academia.