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While manning our advocacy group’s booth in November, one of our team members handed me this book and asked if I’d write a review. At the time I had a stack of books I was trying to get through. I finally finished this one and now believe there are millions of people who can benefit from it– not just victims of narcissists, but those who often enable narcissists by falling for their act.

The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse was written by Debbie Mirza. Mirza clearly knows what it’s like to be taken advantage of by these self-serving, mask-wearing abusers. The deeper into the book you read, the more empathy she expresses towards those whose lives have been altered by this type of abuse.

We are all familiar with the traditional definition of narcissism, which includes largely obvious attributes such as arrogance, entitlement, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Narcissists are more special than you– and they let you know it. They should be the most admired, the most desired, regarded as the most brilliant. Their time is more important, their needs and wants should take precedence, they should be the first ones in line, in the lifeboat, getting the promotion.

Narcissism stems from a distorted sense of self and a lack of empathy for others. Seeking to fill the void inside them, and achieve this status they believe they should have, they use other people as fuel for their egomaniacal furnace. They can be particularly attracted to high empathy, caring, considerate humans who have many of the traits they lack. Sandra L. Brown has written extensively about this dynamic including in her books Women Who Love Psychopaths and How to Spot a Dangerous Man.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that:

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and how severe they are can vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Have an unreasonably high sense of self-importance and require constant, excessive admiration.
  • Feel that they deserve privileges and special treatment.
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements.
  • Make achievements and talents seem bigger than they are.
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
  • Believe they are superior to others and can only spend time with or be understood by equally special people.
  • Be critical of and look down on people they feel are not important.
  • Expect special favors and expect other people to do what they want without questioning them.
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want.
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them.
  • Behave in an arrogant way, brag a lot and come across as conceited.
  • Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office.

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they view as criticism. They can:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special recognition or treatment.
  • Have major problems interacting with others and easily feel slighted.
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior.
  • Have difficulty managing their emotions and behavior.
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change.
  • Withdraw from or avoid situations in which they might fail.
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection.
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation and fear of being exposed as a failure.

Mirza acknowledges these symptoms and then says, “but wait, there’s more.” Having worked with many people traumatized by narcissists, she recognized that there is a much less obvious type of narcissism. A covert passive aggressive narcissist is much more selective about who they show their true colors around. To the rest of the world, they may appear to be a warm, helpful, fun to hang out with, ideal partner, relative, or coworkers, the kind of person who is lauded for their generous, go-getter attitudes. To their selected targets, they are someone else entirely– abusive, insulting, demeaning, demanding, dishonest, immature, entitled, sadistic.

What makes this one of the best books on narcissism that I’ve read, besides being well-organized and understandable, is that Mirza tells us exactly how this victimization unfolds. If you have been through the hell of narcissism, you might have a “eureka!” moment as you recognize that this mirrors domestic violence regardless of the type of relationship involved. The parallels are real.

Mirza notes that whether this process begins in a romantic relationship, family relationship, friendship, or in the workplace, the covert passive aggressive narcissist starts by buttering you up. Initially they mirror you, so you can’t believe how alike you are. You let your defenses down as you find them so relatable, so outgoing, so easy to get along with. In reality, they are gathering information and probing for weaknesses. You also feel for them, because they tell you personal details that will elicit sympathy. You feel like you want to do extra to help them because of all they’ve been through.

But then the criticisms and jabs begin. This may be almost imperceptible at first. You may start to believe that you’re not helping them enough, or being a supportive enough player in their life. They begin to “teach you lessons” and show you how you’re allegedly inadequate. You will be given “the look” and be at the mercy of their moods. They may “reward” you with some buttering up still only to knock you back off of your feet as they create an increasing amount of drama.

Before long, the victim becomes the one holding up the relationship. As they struggle to keep the peace and reignite the positive aspects of the relationship that seemed to be there in the beginning, they are increasingly demeaned and devalued. Worse yet, the covert passive aggressive narcissist appeals to others’ sympathy, enlisting their help in targeting the victim. These accomplished liars are adept at convincing those around the victim that the victim is doing something wrong. The narcissist projects their own demons onto the victim and others believe them. Soon there may be a whole gang within a victim’s social circle, family, or workplace defending the narcissist and gaslighting the victim.

At some point, the narcissist will reject their target, tossing them aside like a piece of garbage. The victim might struggle to maintain the relationship, but that horrible realization that they’ve been used will start to sink in. The truth is, there is no genuine relationship, they don’t really care about you, and you’re just a means to an end. You were just the stairs they climbed to attain a higher status or achieve a goal. Learning the truth can ruin a victim’s life, making them feel unworthy, unloved, even suicidal. But it should be a reflection upon how depraved the narcissist is, how far they’re willing to go to feel powerful, loved, capable, successful.

After describing this process, Mirza delves into the traits that covert passive aggressive narcissists have. She then details their control and manipulation tactics. You will see how both fit into the previous process– and why this is so insidious compared to our average definition of a narcissist. While their tactics may be painfully obvious to their targets, they are highly skilled at convincing others they’re the real victims. Because they are so “wonderful” to others, maintaining the appearance that they are gracious contributors to the greater good, their targets’ experiences are minimized. “Surely the dynamic PTA mom or the gregarious advertising executive couldn’t be guilty of that.” The trauma the victim is suffering may be used to justify the narcissist’s claims that they are unstable/emotional/mental.

Now that I’ve touched on the horrors that this type of narcissist commits, I’ll leave it up to the author to detail the rest. Mirza spends the next part of her book discussing why narcissists might do it and how all of this plays out in parenting, dating, and marriage. A good portion of this book is dedicated to healing as well. While easy to read, these parts of the book should be digested slowly. The way Mirza approaches these topics can completely expose the web of lies targets have been entangled in– and how to shed these sticky strands completely.

An extremely valuable part of the book is where Mirza teaches survivors of covert passive aggressive narcissistic abuse to trust their guts in order to recognize it for what it is. She teaches the reader in simple terms what’s healthy and what’s not. These are concepts that should be taught to human beings from childhood. Yet many adults are unequipped for real love, or healthy work relationships or friendships, making this book all the more valuable. Mirza believes that survivors can heal and offers additional resources at the end of the book.

A wide range of people would benefit from this book. While much of its content is geared towards narcissists’ targets, this book is a great way to learn how NOT to be used by them. It helps readers discern when they’re being played and why they might be susceptible to it. All in all, this is a great read, another weapon in an advocate’s arsenal against the dangerous abusers among us.


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com

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Why didn’t she leave?

Why wasn’t there an arrest?

We didn’t see anything wrong; they seemed like the perfect couple.

These are the statements people often make when they learn about an abusive relationship, especially when one ends in homicide. Assumptions about domestic violence are rife in modern society. We tend to armchair quarterback others’ relationships instead of taking the time to understand the dynamics of and patterns within domestic violence.

Jane Monckton Smith, a Professor of Public Protection in the UK, has written In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder. You may have seen Professor Monckton Smith being interviewed on crime shows or have read her other books. This book, however, should be required reading for humanity.

Monckton Smith takes readers through eight easy-to-understand stages of how domestic violence progresses to homicide. She offers examples from her own career that are relatable and straightforward. Many can see their own tendencies, or that of someone they know, in the people she has studied and interviewed.

By the end of this book, you might be stunned by how simple, how logical, how obvious these eight stages are. Using the eight stages as a template, you can set that template on nearly any deadly domestic situation and see how closely it fits. All of us, with rare exception, are very familiar with deadly relationships thanks to the media, so this can be used as a tool to understand what has actually happened.

I firmly agree with Monckton Smith that people don’t “just lose it,” one of the premises of this book. That is a myth. The “crime of passion” theory, that someone was murdered in the heat of the moment, is a convenient go-to explanation, sometimes used so that we don’t have to deal with the gruesome reality of the buildup and outcome. As she explains, long before the murder there is a devaluing of the victim and decisions are made by the killer that culminate in the taking of a human life.

Monckton Smith is also wise to point out the erroneous judgments society makes against the victims. She has great empathy for why victims are trapped in dangerous relationships and why they can’t usually “just leave.” We always seem to ask this after someone is hurt or dead, “why didn’t she just leave?” At one point in the book she asks, “why didn’t he leave?” He (or she) had the freedom to leave at any time: they had the means, the freedom, the income, the ability to exit safely, not the victim.

This statement– why didn’t he leave– nails what domestic violence is all about: power and control. Abusers don’t want to give up power and control. This is why the risk of homicide goes up so dramatically when a victim tries to leave an abusive relationship; the abuser still wants control. Some abusers are so desperate to retain control that they are willing to kill their partner, spouse, and even their own children so that they “win.”

The author features interviews with actual murderers in this book to show that power and control takes different forms. Others may see the “nice guy,” the “quiet recluse,” the “violent drunk,” or the “jilted lover.” These killers may present as something entirely opposite of who they are. Thanks to her experiences in policing in particular, she looks deeper, finding that yes, regardless of how different these killers are, they still progressed through the stages that lead to homicide.

Beneath different personalities, beneath different MOs, beneath different situations and circumstances, Monckton Smith identifies an often insidious progression that leads from alleged love to cold, calculated death. Its presence in so many different cases is eerie and unsettling. Yet if we would simply educate people about it, it would be so much more obvious to all when it occurs. We would be able to stop the fatal progression and save lives.

We should be educating children about domestic violence. Teens should absolutely know the warning signs of a controlling relationship. They should also know how and where to get help. Imagine if we made In Control required reading in high schools, if we actually sent young people into adulthood with a functional knowledge of what constitutes a healthy relationship and what does not. Many of us had no clue. But with a book like this, there are no more excuses.

As a side note, there are references in this book to the UK’s legal system and police forces that Americans may be unfamiliar with. You should be able to figure them out quickly, and Monckton Smith does explain some of them.

Overall, please consider sharing In Control with your local schools, shelters, advocates, police forces, libraries, and especially churches. Churches sometimes have a particular naivete about this progression to death, blaming and shaming victims instead. It’s time that we all know this, we all use this, and we stop letting these eight stages run their course until they culminate in murder.

No more excuses. There aren’t any more excuses with a book like this available.


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com

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Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Washington State needs an update to its stalking laws.

To date I can’t get any state legislator I’ve contacted to respond. I first reached out about this in October of 2021.

As I’ve told the legislative committee that should take this forward, this is a non-partisan issue and the RCW is in desperate need of a logical, compassionate update. 

In my original email (with one minor edit), I said:


You are already familiar with RCW 9A.46.110, which addresses the crime of stalking. It specifically requires that a person be placed in fear and feels fear:

(b) The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or of another person. The feeling of fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances; and

(c) The stalker either:

(i) Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or

(ii) Knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person.

As a woman who has faced several different stalking situations, I can attest to how life-disrupting and alarming this can be. But not everyone feels fear. In time fear can also turn to other emotions like frustration and anger.

Stalking should be illegal, period. Its legal definition in the RCW should not include “placed in fear.” That is archaic, myopic, and discriminatory even if it means well. As Jennifer Gatewood Owens said in A Gender-Biased Definition: Unintended Impacts of the Fear Requirement in Stalking Victimization, “Arguably, the fear requirement present in most states’ definitions of stalking is inherently gender-biased and should be removed, as no other type of crime is defined by an emotional response.” It’s also bizarre that the RCW places such an emphasis on the reaction of the victim instead of the offender’s behavior.

I am asking that you sponsor legislation to eliminate the condition of “fear” as other states have done. It’s time to modernize this. It needs to be more inclusive and equitable.


What are you willing to do in order to see our state laws updated? Please start by signing the Update Washington State’s Stalking Law petition. Critics say these petitions are just a feel good gesture, but when you have enough signatures, your cause starts receiving the attention it needs to create powerful change. Thank you!


©2022 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Wow.

I just watched this video by Fabio D’Andrea and Mel B. It says everything without saying a word.

This is four minutes of truth that showcases the horrifying ebb and flow of an abusive relationship.

Abusive relationships don’t start this way. The abuser may sweep the victim off their feet, seeming like a long-awaited soul mate. They may be charming, be well-liked, seem vulnerable. They may be that “great guy” or the “perfect woman.” They may convince you they’re the only one who really understands.

They start to test you, start to push your boundaries. Drop by drop, before you have any idea what’s happening, they suck your sense of self away. You begin to lose control over small decisions. Your friends aren’t quite up to their standards, so you start spending more time with theirs. They want to know where you are and who you’re with. If you deny them anything, the guilt trips will fall like hail until they win.

Seeing that you have been conditioned not to stand up for yourself, you’re screamed at. Accused of cheating. Pushed down. Spat upon. Slapped across the face. Fearing more, and in many cases being at a size disadvantage, you don’t fight back. When it’s over, and the sullen silence finally breaks, they’re sorry. They buy you something. They make you dinner. And the cycle of violence begins all over as you think or they promise it will never happen again. Some never make it out of that cycle alive.

In this video, you see the seething sense of entitlement the man has. She is his property. She is his prize. He’s charming, attractive, masculine, and tender in public. He has the crowd’s approval. They appear to be a wealthy, successful, well-matched couple. In private he terrorizes her, surveils her, beats on her to show her she’s not worthy of a man like him. He takes her money out of her wallet. He demands she wear something sexier to their party.

The ending scene is eerily familiar to survivors of abuse. The aerial view, like at the beginning, shows how truly isolated she was. You might leave with nothing. You might not know where you’re going. You hope he doesn’t chase you down while you’re running. But you took that step. And you’ll take the next step, and the next step, and get farther and farther away from your former life.

The farther away you get, the more you’ll detoxify. You’ll realize some people you thought were friends were enabling the abuse because they didn’t want to deal with the reality of your situation. It will dawn on you how much you were brainwashed. You’ll wonder why you ever laughed at those crude jokes, why you compromised yourself in a losing effort to please someone who took pleasure in the misery of others. You’ll be surprised to find yourself again.

If you are in a relationship like this, please know that nothing you do will ever be good enough for the person who is hurting you. They are a bottomless pit that no amount of your love can fill. You can’t fix them. It is not God’s will that you learn obedience, humility, or how to be a better spouse through their violence. God wants you to be healthy, unhurt, strong. You need an escape plan so that you, and possibly your children and pets, can exit the relationship safely. Talk to an expert, call a hotline when it’s safe to do so.

In the United States, we have The Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can talk, text, or chat from the website.

There’s also a tool that can help you Document the Abuse.

No, you don’t deserve this. You never did. You might be a man. You might be a woman. You might be gay, straight, asexual, rich, poor, introverted, extroverted, unemployed, a CEO. This affects human beings from all walks. All.

And it must stop.

You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.

Alex Elle

©2021 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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How does your church respond to domestic violence– and are they prepared for when it affects the congregation and church property?

Christian Coalition for Safe Families

Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

In February we began a series of articles regarding What The Church Can Do. In Part 1, we defined domestic violence. Part 2 advised churches to start by believing when they learn of abuse. Part 3 contained pointers on communicating with victims, and Part 4 discussed how churches can network with advocates and authorities so they are able to respond to domestic violence efficiently. In Part 5, we touched on training your staff and volunteers plus having a list of resources available that you can safely give to victims.

That’s where most advice to churches stops when it comes to this scourge that affects a significant part of your congregation. We want churches to understand what domestic violence is and who to go to, but it’s still commonly treated like a private matter between the victim, suspect, and maybe a church…

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This article is Part 4 in a series about how churches should respond to domestic violence.

Christian Coalition for Safe Families

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

In previous posts we’ve discussed what domestic violence is and isn’t, how churches should respond to domestic violence, and how to interact with domestic violence victims. Some houses of worship may believe that these are the only two parties that need to be involved when abuse comes to light. Well-meaning pastors may attempt to counsel both the victim and the alleged abuser, often together, in a setting where the victim cannot safely share the facts of the situation. This may serve to empower and embolden the abuser. It may endanger the victim further. Churches should not try to handle domestic violence on their own; they need to know who to call for help.

Church leaders may feel that they have an absolute duty to try and make peace in an abusive situation. They may call in trusted church members to pray for the couple…

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