Friday, December 5, 2014

“BUT I LET HIM DO IT”



            When people picture an abusive or controlling man, they imagine him yelling, threatening, or attacking with his fists. These images do capture one aspect of the experience of a woman who has a destructive partner, but at the same time they leave so much out. 
           They particularly miss one of the most insidious forms of relationship poison, which is when the man relentlessly – but not necessarily loudly -- badgers, criticizes, pressures, and guilt-trips the woman until she gives in. This kind of vise-grip approach, where he just keeps tightening up the pressure until she can’t take it, is especially common regarding sex, but it comes about other issues as well.
            Why is this pressure so toxic? One of the key reasons is that the woman comes out blaming herself. Over and over again, women say to me, “Well, I let him get away with it,” or, “I was stupid to put up with it.” Her partner has made her feel that she made a voluntary choice, so she feels responsible for causing her own harm to herself.
            But the decision wasn’t voluntary at all. You are not making a free choice if it follows an unending barrage of verbal pushing. And this is even more true when that pushing includes insults and guilt-tripping. This style of man is sending the message that you are bad and that you are inferior if you don’t give in to his demands.
            And there usually is a threat, even if he isn’t openly saying that he is going to hurt you. He is often sending the message that he is going to be cold or mean to you for days to come if he doesn’t get his way – because that’s what he’s done in the past when you haven’t given in. Or he may get it across that he is going to cheat on you if don’t do what he is telling you to do. Threats don’t have to be overt to be powerful.
            You are not a voluntary participant when you have been bullied into doing things that you didn’t believe you should have to do. And when a man bullies you into sexual contact that you didn’t want, or into a specific sexual act that you didn’t want, that’s sexual assault not lovemaking.

(This post is based on an entry from Lundy's forthcoming book "Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men", which will be released by Berkley Books (Penguin) on April 7, 2015.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

THE ABUSER CRUSADE


            When a man has some unhealthy relationship patterns to begin with, the last thing he needs is to discover philosophies that actually back up the destructive aspects of how he thinks. Take a guy who is somewhat selfish and disrespectful to begin with, then add in a big dose of really negative influences, and you have a recipe for disaster. And the sad reality is that there are websites, books, and even organizations out there that encourage men to be at their worst rather than at their best when it comes to relating to women.

            Some of these groups come under the heading of what is known as “Men’s Rights” or “Father’s Rights” groups. Their writings spread the message that women are trying to control or humiliate men, or are mostly focused on taking men’s money. They also tend to promote the idea that women who want to keep primary custody of their children after divorce are evil. The irony is that we live in a country that has refused to pass an amendment to the constitution to guarantee equal rights for women; yet some men are still out there claiming that women have too many rights and that men don’t have enough.

            Other groups don’t use the language of “rights”, but promote abusive thinking by talking about the “natural” roles of men and women. These groups teach, for example, that men are biologically programmed to be the ones making the key decisions, and that women are just naturally the followers of men’s leadership. These philosophies sometimes teach that men and women are just too different to have really close relationships.

            Human personalities and preference are obviously not determined by biology. There are women who love to watch football and men who would much rather be dancing. There are women who hold in all their feelings and men who burst into tears freely. No one has the right to tell anyone what they “naturally” are or must be; one of the greatest joys of human life is having the freedom to decide for ourselves what our identities and styles will be.

            If you see your partner coming under the influence of a philosophy that is harming your relationship, take some steps to research it. Look underneath the surface of what he is telling you about his new belief system. If he starts to attend workshops or read books that seem to be worsening rather than improving how he treats you, try to use the Internet to make contact with other women who have been hurt by these philosophies. The clearer you can be about what he is getting into, the more you’ll be prepared to defend yourself.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

WHO IS THE CONTROLLING ONE?



            Has your partner ever said to you, “You’re the controlling one! You are always trying to control me! You’re a controlling bitch!”
            These accusations can create confusion for the woman. So let’s clarify a few points.
            It is not control when you:
  • Demand that someone treat you properly, insisting that your rights be respected (including demanding that you be spoken to with respect)
  • Challenge someone about the work they are creating for you (such as by leaving messes around the house)
  • Press someone to meet responsibilities that they aren’t meeting (and if you have to keep asking them over and over again, that doesn’t make you controlling, it makes them irresponsible)
  • Challenge someone about behaviors of theirs that have large implications for the couple (and for the family if you have children), such as abusing alcohol, gambling, ignoring the children, or being mean to the children
  • Call the police because someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you
            It is control when you:
  • Ridicule someone, make them feel stupid, or call them demeaning names, especially when you are doing so in order to force them do something or to silence them
  • Physically or sexually intimidate someone
  • Get revenge on someone for not doing what you told them to do or for standing up for their own opinions
  • Impose double standards (make different rules for yourself than for the other person)
  • Pressure or manipulate someone into sexual contact that they don’t want
            I’m willing to bet that when he calls you controlling, he is referring to things you do from the first list, and that when you call him controlling, you’re referring to things he does from the second list. He's the one getting it all backwards.
            Another useful, though tricky, concept:  It’s control when you are trying to take someone’s rights away, and it’s self-defense when you are trying to keep someone else from taking your rights away. (The reason this gets tricky is because the controlling man will often say that you are trying to take his rights away, because he thinks he has the right to abuse you.)
            And a last concept:  The abusive man will call you “controlling” for resisting his control. Noticing when this is happening will be a huge help to you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HE WANTS SEX AT THE WRONG TIMES





            Verbal abuse is not sexy. Intimidation is not sexy. Public humiliation is not sexy. Ruining the day is not sexy. So why does he think that a short period of time – say a couple of hours -- after he’s been treating you terribly could somehow be a good time for sex? He really thinks that this is when you are going to be in the mood?
            Not exactly. The problem, as is so often true with abusive men, is that he isn’t thinking about you at all; he’s thinking only about himself. He wants sex to reassure himself that he hasn’t driven you away, and that he still has access to your body. He thinks that if he can get you to have sex, that also means he has erased from history the destructive acts he did earlier. And he wants to have sex because in some twisted way his ugly behavior made him feel close, even though it had the opposite effect on you.
            And because of the ways he’s been tearing you down, it gets hard for you to say no to sex that you don’t want; you can end up feeling like giving him what he wants is the only way to settle him down so that he doesn’t launch into more abuse, or even violence.
            He is the one whose reactions are unhealthy, not yours. The feelings you are going through are completely natural for a woman who has been demeaned and bullied. When he has sex with you following one of his incidents, that is a form of sexual abuse, even if you don’t – or can’t – fight him on it. Keep reminding yourself that the sickness is in him, not in you. Sex after abuse is just more abuse.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Defending A Women's Rights Activist Who Is Under Attack

NOTE:  This post is about some of the internal dynamics of the national movement fighting for the custody rights of abused women (also referred to as "protective mothers," because they are in the position of needing to protect their children from the other parent, but family courts are not permitting them to do so). If this issue doesn't interest or affect you, or if you get triggered by news about infighting, I encourage you to skip this post. But for those of you who are involved in the custody issue, it's important to know about the attacks on activists that are happening.




For over a decade I have been one of the leaders in the international effort to secure full human rights for protective mothers and their children. There is no cause that remains as close to my heart day in and day out.
            I am writing in response to the ongoing controversy on the web regarding the Protective Mothers Alliance (PMA), a grassroots advocacy organization that I helped to co-found and that is directed by Janice Levinson. I have been following the claims that have been made about PMA and about Janice; specifically, I  have had the opportunity to review communications that have been shared between Janice and other individuals, and to see some of the extremely negative postings that have been made. In my opinion, the attacks that have been made on Janice and on PMA have to be called out for what they are: vicious, dishonest, threatening, and dehumanizing written assaults on a committed advocate and survivor, one who has worked tirelessly for the interests and rights of protective mothers and their children.
            There are a number of sources of these attacks, but they come overwhelmingly from Claudine Dombrowski and the American Mothers Political Party (AMPP). I am not relying on Janice's word in forming this conclusion; I have looked at many postings by Claudine and AMPP, and they are cruel, irresponsible, and outrageous. And they don't stop; in fact, they're getting worse over time.
            Moreover, Claudine and AMPP have begun to attack a significant number of other protective mothers and their allies as well, with similar viciousness. The predictable effect of the movement's reluctance to denounce this behavior is that it is growing and spreading.             
            To make sure that there is no doubt or confusion, I want to state that I give my wholehearted support to PMA and Janice Levinson. PMA has been an important and exciting development in the custody rights movement, and Janice Levinson's work in organizing protective mothers has been excellent. I have found her to be a person of the highest integrity and commitment, combined with a deep commitment to treating participants with fairness and respect. Although she has been accused of various things, I cannot find a shred of truth to any of these accusations, and none of the accusations come from any source that I find in any way credible.
            The accusations that have been made about PMA have been insulting and derisive in their tone, and have involved outright fabrications about the organization and how it works, and about Janice herself. There have also been accusations that Janice's work is not actually associated with me, which is as bizarre as the other attacks. The attackers have used gutter language, have put up photos of Janice, and have written what can only be interpreted as threats against her. These behaviors serve to further discredit those who are making claims about PMA. These behaviors appear to come from just two or three disgruntled individuals who were angry about the appropriate requirements that the PMA structure involves, and who chose to retaliate in harmful and divisive ways.

            Now for the most important part of this letter:
            Claudine Dombrowski and AMPP are doing severe damage to the custody rights movement. Whatever their intentions may be, the actual effects of their actions is only to strengthen the position of the abusers. I have known of a number of individuals who have dropped out of the movement and/or who have declared that they won't come to the BMCC anymore because they can't stand the infighting and accusations, which are almost all traceable to the same few sources. I therefore have decided today -- after viewing the latest round of unbelievable psychological assaults on Janice (see, for example, janicelevinson.blogspot.com, a blog that was created just to attack and humiliate Janice) --  that I am taking the following stands:
1)  I will not participate in any event or campaign that Claudine Dombrowski or AMPP are officially connected to.
2)  I will not attend any event where Claudine and AMPP are present unless the organizers of the event have done everything in their power to keep them from attending.
3)  I won't work on any projects or collaborate with anyone who has worked with Claudine or AMPP in the past unless they now publicly and visibly denounce her actions.
            I have waited some four years to take these steps, but now I regret that I waited so long. We cannot fight against the power and actions of abusers, and of the courts that enable them, while we remain silent and acquiescent in the face of severely abusive of treatment of our own allies.
            Whatever divisiveness may result from drawing a line that places Claudine Dombrowski and AMPP outside of the custody rights movements will be far less than the divisiveness and other damage that are resulting from our failure to draw that line. So the movement needs us to take this stand.
            But there is an even more important reason to take this stand, which is that it's the right thing to do.
            I ask that you not stand by quietly and allow Janice to be dragged through the mud. Please look at the attacks that have been made on her (and at the lack of any similar behavior coming from her). And then please inform everyone in your networks that you are denouncing the behavior of Claudine and the AMPP and that you do not intend to have them be part of the custody rights / protective mothers movement.
           You can also help by complaining to Google about the hate-oriented website created against Janice, by going to:
     and where you are asked for the URL of the site, type in "JaniceLevinson.blogspot.com"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"HOW MUCH SHOULD I STAND UP TO HIM?"



One of the common contradictions that women hear goes like this:
“Well, it’s your own fault because you let him get away with treating you like that. You have to stand up to him.”
    while other people say
“If you’re going to get right up in his face and push his buttons like that, what do you expect? You already knew how he’d react if you said that to him, because of what has happened before, but you said it anyhow.”

            So what’s the correct way to handle him? Should you stand up to him or shouldn’t you?

            The answer is that no one has any business telling you what to do, because there are so many factors involved in the decision in each specific situation. You are the expert on your partner. You know which issues you can (usually) get away with challenging him about. And you know that there are others where he will punish you if you stand up to him. Some days you will choose to hold your ground despite the pain his retaliation will cost you; you’ll do that because the issue that you’re arguing about means that much to you, or because you can’t take being bullied anymore, or because your soul and dignity need to see you resist his dictates from time to time.
            Most people don’t understand how payback-oriented controlling and abusive men are. They don’t understand what a high price you may pay for calling him on how wrong his statements and actions are. How can someone else know when it’s worth it to you and when it isn’t?
            And as for people who are telling you not to challenge him, they too have no idea what they are talking about. While it’s true that confronting him can cost you a lot, failing to fight back eats away at your soul over time. These people are saying, in effect, that you should consent to be oppressed because it will make life look a little more peaceful, a little less overtly injurious, a little less scary. It’s the same thing as saying to someone, “You should let the invaders take your children one at a time, because otherwise they might take them all at once.”
            There are no simple solutions in dealing with a partner who bullies you, and you deserve respect and understanding about that fact from the people in your life.