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.

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